A world-renowned sports physician has dispelled theories that Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic’s hamstring injury is a sham, saying he could have played through a specific type of tear.
Former Cricket Australia, Socceroos and Liverpool team doctor Peter Brukner said the Serbian star, who re-assumed the world no.1 ranking after his grand slam win, might have been able to manage a peripheral hamstring tear throughout the tournament.
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley told SEN on Wednesday the 35-year-old had won the men’s singles title with a 3cm tear in his hamstring.
Djokovic took the court in the final without strapping on his hamstring after his leg was heavily taped in the earlier rounds, saying he had gone “through hell” with his rehabilitation work over the fortnight.
“I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone. It did affect me, especially in the first week,” he said.
“From the fourth round onwards, I felt like it was behind me … it actually helped my tennis a lot because I felt like I could run free. I was not thinking about it.”
Despite the claims being met with scepticism from Australian tennis fans, Dr Brukner told RSN’s Breakfast with Harf program on Thursday the injury “probably can” be true.
“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.”
Djokovic’s relentless preparation could have made it possible for him to shake off his injury concerns despite playing sore early in the tournament, Dr Brukner said.
“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,” he 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.”