Djokovic tests hamstring on Open eve as Brit plots Nadal upset
Australian Open title favourite Novak Djokovic tested his hamstring in an evening training session on Sunday as defending champion Rafael Nadal’s first-round opponent plots his downfall.
Djokovic was set to train early in the afternoon but rescheduled his one-hour hit-out for 7pm on one of Melbourne Park’s outside courts ahead of his Tuesday night opener against Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.
Novak Djokovic has been dealing with a left hamstring issue.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui
The 35-year-old is trying to extend his record haul of Australian Open titles to 10, which would double as his 22nd grand slam championship overall and tie him with Nadal for the most ever.
Djokovic sought treatment for his left hamstring after playing an outstretched forehand against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in their semi-final in Adelaide last week, but was able to play on and won the tournament.
He also took part in an exhibition match against Nick Kyrgios on Friday night to raise money for the Australian Tennis Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged children and young people through tennis.
But Djokovic, who played through an abdominal tear to win his ninth Melbourne Park title two years ago, remains “cautious” ahead of his bid to make more history.
Novak Djokovic is chasing a 10th Australian Open title.Credit:Getty Images
“Well, I’ve been struggling with that a bit, to be honest, the last seven days, but it’s hopefully not [a] major concern,” he said.
“So far, I’ve been able to train, compete and play points, practice sets. So, that’s a positive sign. Obviously, I’m being a bit more cautious.
“I’m not going full out on the training sessions – [I am] conserving the energy for next week. Hopefully, it won’t cause an issue for me then.”
World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz headlines the tournament withdrawals, which include Marin Cilic, Reilly Opelka, Gael Monfils, Kamil Majchrzak and Attila Balazs on the men’s side.
Chinese player Saisai Zheng pulled out on Sunday night with a wrist injury, joining Naomi Osaka, Ajla Tomljanovic, Paula Badosa, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Qiang Wang in missing the women’s event.
Matches begin on Monday from 11am, with top seed Nadal’s afternoon clash with fast-rising British left-hander Jack Draper one of the most anticipated on the opening day.
The 21-year-old, who is ranked 40th in the world, is one of the most promising players on the tour and made the third round at his most-recent grand slam appearance at the US Open.
Rafael Nadal practices at Melbourne Park on Sunday.Credit:AP
Draper also took a set off Djokovic at Wimbledon two years ago when he was still a teenager.
“There’s no denying [Nadal]’s one of my heroes. Honestly, growing up I watched him a lot – same with Andy Murray, same with Djokovic, same with [Roger] Federer, all these guys,” Draper said.
“I wouldn’t be the tennis player I am probably without them, so there’s that side of it, where he’s the 22-time grand slam champion [and] one of the greatest of all-time, but at the same time, he’s one of my competitors now.
“I need to block all that out and go on court against him and give it my all.″
Jack Draper takes on Rafael Nadal in the first round.Credit:Getty Images
Nadal lost both of his matches at the United Cup this month, to Brit Cameron Norrie and Australia’s Alex de Minaur, and six of his past seven contests going back to last year and fended off retirement questions in recent weeks.
But Draper is not underestimating the Spanish legend.
“One thing I’d say is even though, maybe, he hasn’t been in amazing form; you know he’ll be ready on Monday to play really well, and I’ll be expecting him to play some great tennis,” Draper said.
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