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Novak Djokovic should not enable damage sceptics to derail Australian Open title bid – Tim Henman

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As Novak Djokovic prepares for his quarter-final in opposition to Alexander Zverev tomorrow morning, the British tennis icon Tim Henman has suggested him to maintain all his power for the court docket – relatively than worrying about what others may consider him.

On Sunday night time, Djokovic had been requested by Serbian reporters about his brave choice to combat by means of his current belly damage. Or, to be extra exact, he was requested whether or not he had observed a distinction within the lukewarm response in direction of his two battling wins and the hero’s reception that Roger Federer had acquired when he beat Tennys Sandgren with a groin pressure final yr.

“That’s like opening Pandora’s field,” Djokovic replied. “If we start to debate that, we gained’t end this night. Presumably, there are thousands and thousands of various causes.” 

Djokovic has had a bumpy yr on the PR entrance. It began with some ill-timed feedback on vaccination early within the pandemic, and continued by means of the Covid outbreak at his Adria Tour exhibition final summer season, earlier than reaching a brand new low in January when he referred to as for the 72 gamers in Melbourne’s arduous quarantine to be given “personal homes with a court docket”.

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Then, when he fought by means of his belly damage to beat Taylor Fritz on Friday, Djokovic’s eye-bulging celebrations have been undercut by a tone of scepticism from many observers. Together with Fritz himself, who mentioned: “If he was actually, actually injured he would not have stored taking part in.”

Increasing on this theme in Sunday’s press convention, Djokovic defined that: “I can not say that it doesn’t typically get to me – in fact an injustice or an unfair portrayal by the media impacts me. I’m a human being, I’ve feelings and naturally I don’t take pleasure in it. 

“I’ve the facility solely to regulate that which I’m doing, not that which others are writing about me, how they decide or criticise me,” he added. “I’ve spoken about issues which can not have been nicely acquired by some institutions, monopolies; in relation to politics inside tennis for instance. Mainly, maybe I antagonise folks after which these issues occur … However sure, my errors are maybe much less forgiven within the public compared to different gamers and sports activities stars.”

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It was fascinating to listen to Henman tackle the problem, as he by no means had a heat relationship with the media in his personal taking part in days. For all of the “Tiger Tim” headlines after his good days at Wimbledon, defeats typically noticed him caricatured as a weak-chinned mummy’s boy with an unconvincing fist-pump. Right here is the merciless reality of tennis: you’ll be able to maintain down an everyday top-five rating, however should you don’t win a slam, you’re thought of a loser.

These days, Henman is a pundit for Eurosport’s Australian Open protection, a member of the Garden Tennis Affiliation’s advisory panel and a probable future chairman of the All England Membership. After finishing commentary duties, he addressed the query of Djokovic’s wobbly public picture.

“I performed on a a lot decrease stage,” mentioned Henman, “however as a British participant at Wimbledon I at all times felt it was essential to regulate the issues that I may management – and that was purely my preparation and my efficiency. The whole lot else I didn’t fear about it, I didn’t deal with it, I didn’t waste any power on it as a result of I can’t management it.

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“After I have a look at Novak, he’s the No 1 on the earth with 17 slams, and that is what 100 per cent of his power, his psychological focus needs to be on. So perceptions and different folks’s ideas – I’m shocked that he even offers one per cent of his power or his time or his focus to those issues.”

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The state of Djokovic’s damage shall be vital tomorrow. It clearly affected his forehand throughout his quarter-final win over Milos Raonic on Sunday, particularly when he was aiming up the road, however his total recreation is so bulletproof that he nonetheless got here by means of in 4 comparatively simple units.

Three gamers have already retired from this occasion with belly points in Britain’s Johanna Konta, Casper Ruud of Norway and Italy’s Matteo Berrettini. Henman believes that the sample is probably going the results of a scarcity of preparation time – significantly on the serve.

As he put it “The gamers have not had maybe the numbers of hours to arrange, practise and due to this fact serve. [For men] the challenges round quarantine after which stepping into five-set matches are placing additional pressure on the muscle tissue.”

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