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February 15, 2021

Novak Djokovic

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference


7-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What did you do in the last 48 hours to get ready and win this match?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You don't want to know (smiling).

Well, I did a lot of recovery. I mean, a lot of, lots of time with my physio on the table, trying to rest as much as I can. Did different treatments with different devices. You know, just pills, painkillers and stuff like this with medical team of Tennis Australia and Australian Open, that definitely helped a lot. And ATP physios, I want to thank them again for being available for me and for my physiotherapist and giving their best to, you know, allow me to be in the condition to compete.

Q. Wondered how you actually felt out there on the court tonight? But secondly, is it a tear, a strain, is it your ab?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I understand that you want to know, but I really don't want to get into it what it is. Yes, I did an MRI, I did everything, I know what it is, but I don't want to talk about it now. I'm still in the tournament. I hope you guys understand that. I don't want to speculate too much about it.

It's not ideal for me. I mean, I definitely have felt better, you know, before my third-round match against Fritz than I have starting from third set with Fritz when that happened and all the match today.

I didn't know few hours before I stepped on the court tonight whether I'm gonna play or not. I didn't hit a tennis ball yesterday. As I said, I tried to use every single hour possibly to recover and give myself at least a little bit of chance to step on the court, which I have done. As I said on the court, if I'm part of any other tournament other than Grand Slam, I definitely wouldn't be playing.

But it's a Grand Slam. It matters a lot to me at this stage of my career, of course. I want to do everything possible in this very short amount of time to get on the court.

Playing best-of-five, you know, with kind of an aggressive mover that I am on the court doesn't help much with this kind of injury, but I think the combination of, you know, pills and medicaments and treatments and also some willpower, you know, and of course certain degree and level of bearing the pain. Mentally I think you have to kind of accept that I did come into the match knowing that I'll probably feel pain all the way through, which was the case.

But it was the level of the pain was bearable, so I could actually play. And it was kind of going on and off a little bit during the match. Certain stage of the match it was more; certain stages less.

But I somehow managed to find a way and win, and that's what matters the most. Now I've got another 40 hours or something like that till the next match, which is great about Grand Slams. You get that day, day and a half in between to really rest. So, you know, most likely I won't be training tomorrow and just, again, going back to recovery routine and hoping that things will get better.

I mean, it's kind of a gamble, I mean, that's what medical team told me. It's really unpredictable, you can't know what's going to happen with you once you're on the court. You're not gonna save yourself or think about going for that point or this shot or that shot. It just pulls you. It's normal. Playing at this level, you just want to give it all.

It could cause much more damage than it is at the moment, but it also could go in a good direction. So that's something that I don't know, and I don't think I will also know until I stop taking painkillers.

As long as I'm with high dose of painkillers, I guess, you know, still can bear some of the pain. But the tricky thing with the painkillers is that they kind of hide what's really happening in there, so you might not feel it, but then the big damage might be done. But again, I'm fine with whatever is happening post-tournament, because I'm going to take time off to heal properly before I step on the court again.

Q. You looked like you were moving okay, or fine. How much were you hampered? How much did you have to compromise shots that you were playing to try and protect it to some degree?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That's what I just said. It's kind of hard to really calculate on the court, but I think I was forced against Fritz in a way to adjust my game, so I was really serving two first serves against him.

It was worse against Fritz in third, fourth, and fifth set than it was today the entire match.

So that's a positive obviously for me. I can't really say what percentage, was it worse or better, I don't really know, but I was not saving myself too much, if you know what I mean, on the court.

There were some shots here and there when it was really an extreme ball then maybe I let it go. I don't know. Few times. But I was in it. I was in the match. I was just trying to use my serve accurately and try to go through my service games with as less of an effort as possible.

It's such a quick surface. I mean, it's the quickest court that I have ever experienced here in Australia ever since I have been coming here, you know, more than 15 years.

You play somebody like Milos or my next opponent, Zverev, one of the best servers in the world and huge serves, you just have to kind of pray that you are reading their serve in the important moment and kind of get the break.

I don't know whether it was good for me or not that we didn't have too many rallies and exchanges. It probably was, I guess, suitable to my condition at this point, even though against Fritz what bothered me the most is that quick reaction and return and changing direction.

But, you know, some reason that today it was quite okay.

Q. You have beaten your next opponent, Alexander Zverev, in your previous three encounters. Does this abdominal injury impact your confidence in any way?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, it doesn't. As I said, I have to accept the circumstances and the condition that I'm in at the moment, and I understand that I will have to, at least it was the case in the previous match and today, that I'll have to probably adjust the game itself and how I position myself on the court, depending on my opponent.

Obviously playing against Sascha is a different matchup, there's probably going to be more rallies, grueling rallies, you know, exhausting, and it's going to be demanding from my side really from back of the court.

He moves very well for his height, his size, but he's also one of the best servers we've got in the game. He's very complete, all-around player.

As I said, you know, it's in really God's hands where my condition goes from today to the first point against Sascha. I'm just hoping that it's going to go in the right direction, that I didn't damage it, whatever is happening in there, too much and kind of feel even 10% better than I did today. And if that's the case, you know, I like my chances. For sure, we had tough one in the ATP Cup prior to Australian Open, very close match.

I don't expect anything less than a big battle than it was a few weeks ago.

Q. Vika Azarenka said opinion that journalists shouldn't ask question in details about the health condition and it's very private stuff. It's not about hiding against the opponent or anybody else. It's a very private issue that players shouldn't be giving out very much details about the health condition. Do you agree?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah, I would agree with her. I mean, I understand that obviously media wants to speculate, they want to know, they want to understand what's going on. They want to convey that, communicate that to people, tennis fans, everybody who is following, because it creates a buzz, it creates a story, you know, uncertainty, as well, whether the player is going to play or not, what's happening.

Yeah, so I understand both sides. But I would agree with Vika, for sure. I don't feel comfortable, I mean, comfortable to talk about. I mean, I would let medical representatives talk about that obviously in detail if there is a need for that.

So from my side, I'm gonna tell you how I feel, but I'm not going to go into the medical conditions that I'm experiencing.

Q. You're not worried about doing long-term damage that could jeopardize your year and even more than that for this tournament right now?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have talked a lot with my own medical team and also the medical team of Tennis Australia -- Australian Open. They all share opinion that there is a slight, very slight, slim chance that I will make a significant damage that would take me out of the tour for whatever, you know, some extended period of time.

So, yes, there is always, as I was mentioning before, a risk that the injury will get worse, but they don't think it's going to be very significantly worse that it's going to jeopardize my entire season.

So it will jeopardize, you know, depending on how I go here, it will jeopardize, you know, certain tournaments that are coming after Australian Open that I was maybe thinking to play. So I'll probably have to, you know, take a little bit more time than I was previously thinking and heal, recover, and then get back on the tour.

But that's something that it's still in the clouds. I really don't know exactly, you know, how far I'm going to go with this injury or how far I'm going to go in the tournament. There is still potentially three matches to go, and it's only going to get tougher and tougher for me on the court.

Q. I do have a question, but one thing before that would be a clarification. You said that you wouldn't give what the diagnosis is, but would you kindly tell us where the injury is? Because you mentioned after the previous match that you thought you tore a muscle. Can you tell us where that muscle is and what that muscle is?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, probably people have seen it. I mean, I have the tape on my abdominal muscle. I guess that's where it is (smiling).

We are in a rotational sport, so it affects everything. It's affects every single shot. It affects every time I make a split step and turn or every time I extend and try to reach for the serve or whatever it is, you know.

Every extreme ball sliding, because that's what I do, and every time I would slide today for some, you know, far reaches, I would feel it a lot.

Yeah, so that's what it is.

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