Rafael Nadal’s uncle hits back at Novak Djokovic as row kicks off

Novak Djokovic jokes about his age at the Australian Open

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Rafael Nadal’s uncle, Toni Nadal, believes Novak Djokovic recently aimed a dig at his nephew at the Australian Open. The Serb has had to contend with some injury issues at the tournament this term but has still faced accusations of faking or over exaggerating his problems. However, this is something the former world No 1 has denied as he looks to draw level with Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic has had to take several medical time-outs at the Australian Open so far, with the Serb appearing to be struggling with a leg injury.

And he recently hit out at those who suggested he wasn’t being truthful with his fitness, saying: “When some other players are injured, then they are the victims, but when it is me, I am faking it.

“It is very interesting. I don’t feel that I need to prove anything to anyone.”

And Toni Nadal, writing for El Pais, thinks Djokovic was referring to his nephew.

He said: “I know perfectly well that there is a certain controversy regarding the contradiction generated by the excellent games that Novak has played and his gestures on the courts, and his repeated statements about the ailment he is suffering from in one thigh.

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“They have sent me a sentence from his press conference in which, with notable annoyance, he complains that the authenticity of his injury has been questioned and, instead, that ‘they are victims to others when they also suffer them.’

“I am not very susceptible by nature, but I understand that ‘others’ refers to Rafael, the only ‘other’ injured tennis player among the contenders for the title.”

The Spaniard also suggested that the accusations being levelled against Djokovic were fair.

Despite his injury issues, the 35-year-old has dropped just one set Down Under so far.

Toni added: “For years we have been able to verify how injuries, both in the case of my nephew and in that of other players, have had an immediate negative consequence in their matches or, if not, they have suffered it at the end of them.

“That is why I think that Nole should not be surprised that his clear third round victory over Grigor Dimitrov and his crushing round of 16 victory against Alex de Minaur, both based on the same quality as always in both court displacements and punching effectiveness, surprise and sow certain doubts about the extent of his injury.”

However, he did also suggest that Djokovic was likely being truthful and downplayed suggestions the Serb was playing mind games.

“On other occasions it has happened that, after seeing him suffer from different kinds of physical problems, in the end he has managed not only to play excellently but also to win the final victory,” he said.

“I do not at all question the veracity of the problems that the great Serbian tennis player has been dragging, but I am convinced, after what has been seen, that if they do not go further, they will not prevent him from performing at a high level and probably being the one to lift the trophy the next Sunday.”

Djokovic, meanwhile, breezed past Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.

And the nine-time champion referred to his injury issues speaking afterwards, insisting he’s been working to get his leg better.

“I’ve been connected to machines more than I have been connected to anybody else or my bed or anything else,” he said.

“In my days off, I’ve tried about any bio-feedback machine there is on this planet in order to get my leg ready and it worked.

“I’m gonna keep going. I miss tennis on the days off but at the same time I think it’s important to be smart and wise with the body and these particular circumstances where it’s more important to recover and get ready for the next challenge.”

Next up for Djokovic is a clash against Tommy Paul in the semi-finals on Friday.

It will be the first meeting between the pair, who are now just two victories away from Grand Slam glory. 

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