Novak Djokovic’s memorable 10th Australian Open title was won on a potentially dodgy hamstring according to tournament director Craig Tiley – but Australian fans still aren’t fully convinced. The Serbian champion, who once again ascended to the top rank in men’s tennis thanks to his 22nd grand slam victory, had injured his hamstring roughly 10 days before the Australian Open was due to begin.
The 35-year-old was reportedly a touch-and-go prospect for the tournament after suffering the injury in the days leading up to it, not practicing on his off-days and spending almost every waking hour working to rehabilitate the injury. The extent of the injury, Tiley revealed on Thursday, was a 3cm tear in his hamstring.
However the claims of a tear have left many Australian fans raising an eyebrow, particularly considering the numerous matches won in straight sets in the second week of the tournament. There had been speculation throughout the Australian Open as to whether the injury was actually legitimate, however Tiley insisted he had been shown scans indicating the seriousness of the injury.
Those claims have still had some scepticism associated with them however. Former Socceroos, Cricket Australia and Liverpool team doctor, Dr Peter Brukner, told radio station RSN that it was possible the hamstring tear was on the more manageable side of things.
“There are different types of hamstring tears – without going into great detail, your standard one is a tear in the middle of the hamstring; you stop as if you’re shot. That’s a three to four week sort of hamstring,” he said.
“There is another type that’s a tear on the periphery of the muscle; we call a myofascial tear. We sort of consider that maybe a 10 to 14 day sort of injury. I presume that’s the type of injury that Djokovic had.
“By my calculation there were exactly 10 days from the time he did it until his first game in the Aus Open on the Tuesday.”
There was also plenty of scepticism on social media. While some weren’t convinced about the true seriousness of the injury, many still credited Djokovic for fighting through it.
Djokovic’s recovery habits key to Australian Open victory
Brukner said Djokovic famously fastidious approach to maintaining his body would likely have been of significant benefit as he sought to regain his top form. After being denied entry into Australia in 2022, the Serbian was determined to make up for lost time this year.
“He’s the sort of guy who does everything right – what he eats, what he drinks, his rehab. He would’ve done absolutely everything to get himself right. He didn’t really go 100 per cent in those first couple of games, at least until he got to the Medvedev game,” Brukner said.
“By the second week, it probably would’ve been pretty much healed, so it is feasible … but he would’ve been touch and go all along.”
The 22-time grand slam champion was seen with heavy strapping on his leg during a number of matches, but never revealed the full extent of the injury. On Wednesday, Tiley made the staggering revelation about just how bad Djokovic’s hamstring was.
“This guy I did see, he had a three-centimetre tear in his hammy,” Tiley told SEN radio. “Absolutely (I saw the scans), the doctors are going to tell you the truth.
“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was true or not, it’s hard to believe that they can do what they do with those kind of injuries. He’s remarkable, to deal with it extremely professionally.”
Speaking after Sunday night’s final, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said most players wouldn’t have kept going if they had the same injury. But Djokovic is a different beast.
“This is definitely the best win for Novak. Not just because of what happened last year, but also because of the last three weeks,” he said. “I thought I’d seen everything when he won here in 2021, but this one was unbelievable. To play like that everyday, better and better, it’s so impressive.
“97 percent of the players would have pulled out upon the MRI scan. He’s from another planet, the way he works. He gave everything. I didn’t expect this; I was shocked. Against (Grigor) Dimitrov, I was scared, but he came through it all.”