Australian Open: Djokovic has doubts over whether he will be able to play in round four

By Sports Desk February 12, 2021

Novak Djokovic is unsure whether he will be able to play in the Australian Open fourth round after struggling with an abdominal injury in his five-set win over Taylor Fritz.

The world number one survived a huge injury scare to get past Fritz in the third round, winning 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

Eight-time Australian Open champion Djokovic appeared to injure his abdominal region during the third set.

It was a match which started on Friday in front of a crowd and finished on Saturday without fans as Victoria went into a five-day lockdown.

Fritz appeared set to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time in his career, but Djokovic suddenly came to life in the fifth set.

Next up for Djokovic is Milos Raonic, who he has beaten in all 11 of their meetings, on Sunday.

But the Serbian is concerned by his injury and was unable to commit to saying he would be able to take to the court.

"I really don't know," Djokovic said when asked for his thoughts about facing Raonic.

"Right now, I know it's a tear, definitely, of the muscle so I don't know if I'll manage to recover from that in less than two days.

"I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if I'm going to step out on the court or not.

"I am very proud of this achievement. Let's see what happens."

Djokovic felt for American Fritz after his brave defeat and discussed what he had gone through during a contest lasting three hours and 25 minutes.

He continued: "I want to congratulate Taylor for a great fight. I'm sorry that he lost the match obviously.

"I don't know. I just tried to stay in there and I was hopeful that whatever is happening there is going to feel better.

"Towards the end of the fourth it started to feel better, third and fourth set I just served and couldn't do much on the return.

"I was just going for my shots, was hitting two first serves and it worked, it worked well.

"This is definitely one of the more special wins in my life. It doesn't matter what round it is and against who it is.

"Under these kinds of circumstances, to pull this through is definitely something I'll remember forever."

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    Ash Barty will plot a path to victory over Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final with the coach she describes as "a magician" and "a massive part of my life".

    Australian home hero Barty has been a hot favourite for the title since before the first ball was struck in Melbourne, and to date she has justified all the hype and expectation.

    Barty has dropped only 21 games across six matches to reach the final. Since 2000, only Serena Williams (16 games at the 2013 US Open and 19 at the 2012 US Open) and Venus Williams (20 games at Wimbledon in 2009) have lost fewer games to reach a grand slam final.

    The last player to lose fewer games en route to the final in Australia was Monica Seles in 1993 (20 games), and she went on to beat Steffi Graf in a title match that went to three sets.

    This is the level Barty is at now, as an established world number one and reigning Wimbledon champion, and a Collins victory on Saturday would be a major upset.

    Yet Barty sees the 28-year-old American as a major threat, and the evidence of Collins' destructive performance against seventh seed Iga Swiatek in Thursday's second semi-final attests to that.

    Collins won 6-4 6-1 and hit 27 winners and only 13 unforced errors, securing a place in her first slam final.

     

    "She's an exceptional ball striker," said Barty. "She's someone who stands on the baseline and can hit all spots of the court from any position. I think the challenge is going to be trying to get her off balance.

    "We'll do our homework and try to figure out a plan, and come Saturday try and execute. Danielle's done incredibly well here in Australia before. The way she's able to control the baseline and really take the game on, she's one of the most fierce competitors out here.

    "She loves to get in your face and loves to take it on. It's going to be a challenge for me to try to neutralise as best as I can, but it's certainly nice to see her out here playing her best stuff."

    Working out a strategy for the match, alongside Barty, will be veteran coach Craig Tyzzer. Barty trusts him implicitly to get the plan right.

    "'Tyzze' is a magician; he's able to look at a lot of different matches, look at key matches, some recent and some old, and work our plan out in looking at different conditions and things like that," Barty said in a news conference after her thumping 6-1 6-3 semi-final win against Madison Keys.

    "He's the man that does all the work. I just get to go out there and have fun with it."

    Barty is understating her role there, but she has turned singles into a team game, relying on the likes of Tyzzer and mindset coach Ben Crowe to steer her on the right path.

    She is attempting to become the first Australian player to win this title since Chris O'Neil in 1978, so the pressure is on, and it helps that those around her help to relieve the stress.

    "Everyone is equally important. We're all equal, we all play our roles," Barty said. "The most amazing thing is we all communicate really well together and get along with each other and know when it's time to back off, relax, and then when it's time to switch on and really have a crack.

    "'Tyzze' has been a massive part of my life since 2016. Before that, we'd done some work together, but the work he's done in setting up an amazing group of people around us has propelled my career for both of us. The experiences we've been able to share has been remarkable.

    "It starts with my family, my sisters, obviously my professional team who contribute as much time and energy into my career and help me try and live out my dreams. I cannot thank them enough for the time and effort they put in to someone else.

    "Being able to enjoy it all together and lighten up when we're not focused on the match is a really important part of that."

    Barty's first serve has been a huge weapon, while Collins' return of the second serve has been a significant factor behind her run. So if Barty can land enough first serves on Saturday, that could prove telling. It has helped her to save 13 of 14 break points so far in this tournament.

    Giving Collins a regular look at her second serve could be costly. Collins has won more points on the return of second serve (90) than any other woman in the tournament.

    Barty ranks ninth on that list but is the leader on winning points when landing a first serve, achieving an 83 per cent success rate.

  • Djokovic confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships as world number one plans return to action Djokovic confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships as world number one plans return to action

    Novak Djokovic looks set to return to tennis at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.

    The 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

    Djokovic, who told officials he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, believed he was still eligible to enter the country and compete after testing positive for coronavirus last month and making a full recovery.

    Dubai does not have the same conditions for entry as Australia, and Djokovic will be free to compete at the tournament he has won five times previously provided that he can produce a negative PCR test result on arrival.

    His place in the field was confirmed by tournament organisers on Thursday, with Djokovic joined by defending champion Aslan Karatsev and last year's beaten semi-finalists Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov. The tournament runs from February 21 to 26.

    After strong Australian Open campaigns, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Gael Monfils have also entered the Dubai event, which will be staged for a 30th time.

    Djokovic won a hat-trick of Dubai titles from 2009 to 2011, adding further triumphs in 2013 and 2020. Only Roger Federer, with eight titles, has had more success at the tournament.

    Serbian superstar Djokovic is not entered for the ATP 500 events in Rotterdam or Rio de Janeiro that precede the Dubai tournament.

    Unlike in Australia, the 34-year-old can likely expect the red-carpet treatment in Dubai, where Colm McLoughlin, CEO of tournament sponsors Dubai Duty Free, said: "We are delighted to see Novak back in Dubai for the 12th time when he will be seeking his sixth title and we wish him the best of luck."

  • Australian Open: Collins relishing 'spectacular' final showdown with Barty Australian Open: Collins relishing 'spectacular' final showdown with Barty

    Danielle Collins is relishing a "spectacular" Australian Open showdown with home favourite Ash Barty after outclassing Iga Swiatek to reach her maiden grand slam final.

    Collins was imperious in her second major semi-final on Rod Laver Arena, taking just an hour and 18 minutes to beat Swiatek 6-4 6-1.

    The 28-year-old American's emphatic victory was her second over a top-10 opponent in a grand slam.

    Collins was relentless as a struggling Swiatek had no answer to her aggressive approach, and the 27th seed will attempt to tear up the script by denying Barty a first Australian Open title on Saturday.

    It was only last April that the Florida native underwent emergency surgery for endometriosis, an extremely painful condition in which tissue similar to that which lines the uterus grows outside of it.

    Collins was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2018, but she has broken new ground for her career at Melbourne Park, dropping only two sets en route to the final.

    She said in an on-court interview following the win over Swiatek: "It feels amazing. It's been such a journey, and it doesn't happen overnight. So many years of hard work and hours at an early age on court.

    "Yesterday I was talking about all the early mornings my dad would get up with me and practise before school. It's just incredible to be on this stage and especially with the health challenges. I'm just so grateful, and I couldn't be happier."

    Collins beat world number one Barty to reach the Adelaide International quarter-finals last year, having lost their previous three meetings, and the world number 30 will embrace such a big occasion this weekend.

    She said: "We've had some incredible battles over the years. It's going to be really spectacular, with the energy the fans bring, whether they are for me or for my opponent.

    "I think we're just so grateful after everything with COVID to have incredible energy and people here supporting us."

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