Novak Djokovic has conceded his hamstring is feeling “really bad” in moments during matches, with the star Serb relying on “pills” and “hot cream” to progress through the tournament.
Djokovic defeated Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets on Saturday but was grateful the match didn’t last any longer after he was forced to claim the first in a tiebreak.
The Australian Open favourite admitted the “rollercoaster” injury was getting worse, revealing he was unsure whether he would be able to play out matches before the tournament started.
“It kind of always starts well in last few matches, including this one, and then some movement happens and then it gets worse,” he said of his hamstring.
“Pills kick in, some hot cream and stuff. That works for a little bit, then it doesn’t, then works again.
“The way it looked just before the tournament started, I thought that it wouldn’t be possible. I’m still here and still holding on.”
The 35-year-old never seriously considered withdrawing from the tournament without testing the injury in matches first, he said.
He advanced past round one unscathed but says he is feeling the pinch more frequently as his campaign progresses.
“I did not want to pull out for the tournament because I wanted to see how it’s going to feel on the court,” Djokovic said.
“So the first match was good. The second match I struggled a lot. I had couple of moments where it was really bad. Today, as well.
“But I managed to, as I said, survive and kind of pull it through. I’ll take it match by match. I don’t know what awaits, but I do hope and I have faith for the best.”
2:13PM WORLD NO 1 IS OUT
The race to replace Ash Barty as Australian Open women’s champion has been busted wide open after the shock loss of No.1 seed Iga Swiatek.
The Pole who went on a 37-match winning streak last year had not dropped a set at Melbourne Park before running into Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina on Sunday and suffering a 6-4 6-4 defeat.
On Sunday morning some of the discussion around week two of the Australian Open centred on who was the bigger certainty to be crowned champion – Swiatek or nine-time men’s winner Novak Djokovic.
But hours later and it was all over for the short-priced favourite who won last year’s French and US Opens.
“For sure in Kazakhstan, I got so much support and I know that
people following me and supporting me, so it was really unbelievable when I came back after (winning Wimbledon last year),” Rybakina said.
“So thank you so much everybody who is watching and, of course, who came to support us and watch us today.”
Sam Smith described defeat as “devastating” for Swiatek who could not get off the court fast enough.
“That is a devastating loss,” Smith said on Ch9. “She is out and out in terms of the ranking points that the dominating player on the women’s tour, she has raised the bar, but the rest, the pack, are coming back to her.”
1:23PM WORLD NO 1 IN TROUBLE
For the first time this tournament, Iga Swiatek has dropped a set.
Up against Elena Rybakina on Rod Laver Arena, the Polish star is rattled dropping having dropped just 15 games so far this tournament she lost the first 4-6.
Rybakina has a point to prove today. The reigning Wimbledon champion has been shunned to the outside courts for the first three matches in Melbourne.
The snus have irked her so getting the chance to strut her stuff will no doubt be tasting sweeter by the minute.
”Iga she’s struggling,” Jelena Dokic has said in her courtside commentary.
“What Rybakina is doing so well, she’s going hard and flat in Iga’s forehand. We know that’s what she doesn’t like. She has a bigger swing.
“Her forehand is one of the best in the world when she has time. If you can go hard and fast into the forehand, she struggles.
“Tactically Rybakina is doing the right thing. Iga is trying to change the pattern of play to go into the backhand court rallies. It’s just not working.
“Iga is going to have to do something big to turn this around.”
12:43PM WHERE’S NICK KYRGIOS WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
Australian Open fines in the men’s competition are down a whopping 82 per cent.
The men have thus far been fined a total of A$23,700.60 – just 18 per cent of last year’s total of $129,276 recorded by the end of week two.
It’s been a significantly tamer competition than in recent years, a trend expected to continue given the early exits of serial offenders Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev as well as the absence of Nick Kyrgios.
Shapovalov in 2022 was fined A$21,546 – nearly this year’s week one total – but did not violate in this tournament at all before his third-round departure.
Medvedev was fined A$17,236.80 last year and was one of four players to have copped $4309.20 this tournament but was sent packing by Sebastian Korda in a boilover.
The other three fined that same amount – Oscar Otte, Stan Wawrinka and Adrian Mannarino – are now all out of reckoning.
The PG-rated feel of the tournament has no doubt been aided by Kyrgios’ withdrawal, with the crowd favourite fined A$14,364 in 2022.
Kyrgios was also fined more than double that at Wimbledon, which included a fiery stoush with Stefanos Tstsipas – who is typically one of tennis’ greatest donors himself.
However, the Greek star is yet to be fined a cent at this year’s Australian Open, probably courtesy of the fact he won all of his first three matches in straight sets.
When his tournament heats up in week two, history shows there’s every chance his attitude will, too.
Meanwhile, the women’s competition has combined for just A$6463.30 meaning they are on track to meet to their 2022 tally of A$13,645.80.
11:53AM WHAT WAS BEHIND STAR PAIR’S FROSTY HANDSHAKE?
Andy Murray had a crowd of 7,500 in his corner all night long in his Saturday blockbuster against Roberto Bautista Agut and the one-sided nature of the fans clearly got to the Spaniard.
Murray’s 4:05 am finish eventually caught up with him as he bowed out in typically defiant style in round three.
The 35-year-old was clearly feeling the effects of his epic five-setter in round two, which started on Thursday but ended in the early hours of Friday.
The 24th-seeded Spaniard Bautista won 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 6-4 but it was the frosty meeting at the net which had people talking.
Social media lit up with people questioning what beef the pair had with Agut later hinting the sway of the crowd and raucous support had irked him.
“He understands the game very well and he knows how to play with a crowd, how to play with the nerves of the opponent,” he said afterwards.
“Today was a tough match. I think I did a great job.”
Margaret Court Arena was dubbed the “Murray madhouse” with the noise from the crowd reaching decibels you’d expect from the championship winning point in a final rather than every time the Brit won a point, game or set.
10:15AM BRUTAL HONESTY DRIVES STAR
If you’re not ready to hear the brutally honest truth then don’t go near Belinda Bencic’s coach.
Last year the Swiss star hired Dmitri Tursunov – former top 20 player and previously coach to some of the biggest names in women’s tennis. There has been a transformational shift to her game.
Two weeks ago she won in Adelaide and now Bencic is in the fourth round at the Australian Open in a wide open women’s draw.
Brutal honesty is working for the 25-year-old.
“He’s definitely a very tough coach, for sure,” she said. “He definitely doesn’t talk about everything else around the point and just really tells you what you need to hear, and sometimes you really need to hear the uncomfortable stuff.
“ I’m not someone who is like: ‘Oh, like don’t criticise me.’ I’m used to it.
“That’s really what I’m looking for. I’m trying to improve everything but he just pushes me a lot, so it puts me out of my comfort zone. So I don’t feel like, oh, I’m playing so well in practice, everything is great. Like then I come to the match, and you know in the match you’re also out of your comfort zone, so definitely I’m trying to do what he’s telling me.
It’s working so far, so I’m definitely trusting him a lot. I just feel like we have a great year in front of us.”
9:25AM X-RATED COMMENTARY
Live sport commentary is a tough job, even the best in the business get caught out.
There are plenty of sporting expressions that bring with them x-rated double-entendres.
It’s a minefield.
“How do you respond to deep hard balls,” one says.
“Yeah you’ve got to really stay nice and low,” is the response.
Before both are unable to hold back a fit of giggles.
A long silence followed.
It wasn’t the only fit of laughter that interrupted play at this year Aus Open.
Arnya Sabalenka was serving for the match in her clash against Elyse Mertens when someone in the crowd appeared to let rip.
“What was that? asks one of the commentators.
“Some sort of indescribable noise from the crowd,” was the diplomatic response
8am: DJOKER HINTS HE’S CLOSE TO THE END
An ailing Novak Djokovic said every moment counted now that he was in the “last stage” of his career, after battling past Grigor Dimitrov and into the Australian Open last 16.
The Serb came through a titanic 77-minute first set before taming the Bulgarian 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena, needing treatment twice on his troublesome hamstring.
He will face home hope Alex de Minaur for a place in the quarter-finals after the 22nd seed defeated Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi in three sets.
Djokovic’s gutsy win inched him nearer to a 10th Australian Open title and record-tying 22 Grand Slam crowns.
Winning once again in Melbourne would also return him to world number one for the first time since June.
Now 35, Djokovic said he was savouring each tournament more. “Every season counts I guess now, when you come to the last stage, the last quarter, of your career,” he said.
“Obviously you start appreciating and valuing each tournament more because you might not have a lot left in the tank.
“I’ve been truly fortunate to do what I love, I love the sport, I love competing. It’s been almost 20 years now of professional sport. I can’t be more grateful than I am.”
7AM LEGEND ANOINTS WONDER KID AS TENNIS’ NEXT BIG THING
Sebastian Korda is the player to beat at the Australian Open — according to the greatest player of all time.
Australian tennis legend Rod Laver has his eye firmly on American giant-killer and son-of-a-champion Korda, who dismissed two-time runner-up Daniil Medvedev on Friday night.
Laver liked what he saw in that clash, and has backed in the 22-year-old to make a real stand in the second week.
“It’s nice that the young players that are coming on now,” the 11-time slam winner, including two calendar grand slams, said.
“There’s one guy – I think Korda. He beat Medvedev (on Friday night). And I think he’s the one who will be one of your next champions out there.
“There’s four or five others that are 18 years of age, 19, and they’re getting the experience and getting to play down here.”
Laver, who was ranked the top player in the world for seven years straight and has more career titles than any other player, said Korda’s performance against Medvedev on Friday showed he had potentially taken the next step.
“He’s been a great young player,” he said.
“Once you get past playing some of these also-ran players (it’s one thing), but then when you’re up against Medvedev, and you still perform and compete – you’re prepared to put the effort in. I think I see him going a long way.”
Medvedev discovered the unique nature of Korda’s game first-hand, and described the young gun as “one of the strongest hitters” in tennis.
“There are some other guys playing like this, but they miss more than him. And he didn’t miss that much,” the Russian said.
“His game (is) kind of different from everybody because very aggressive and very early he takes the ball. A little bit maybe like Novak (Djokovic). But, yeah, well, not every player is capable of doing that, so that’s beautiful and that.
“If I do it, I would be ranked 700 in the world.”
Korda revealed after the pair’s clash that he had been met with a text message from eight-time slam-winner Andre Agassi, who he credited with sparking his game into action.
“He’s going to bed now. That’s the last thing he sent me,” he said.
“He’s one of the most special people in my life. We started talking during Covid in 2020.
“He’s been one of the biggest parts in my rise. Just overall just as a tennis player, as a human being. We spend a lot of time together.
“He’s very special to me.”
Originally published as Australian Open 2023 day 7 live scores, results, schedule and order of play