Tennis Novak Djokovic sweating on fitness ahead of Australian Open Kooyong Classic

Tennis


Novak Djokovic admits there’s still a chance he could withdraw from the Australian Open, moving to ease expectation over his performance at the Grand Slam he’s dominated for a decade.

The six-time Open champion played his first exhibition matches in six months on Wednesday, and reported delight at his performance – and no pain from the hit-out.

He beat world No. 5 Dominic Thiem over two sets at the Kooyong Classic and lost to Lleyton Hewitt in a mini-match at the Tiebreak Tens event that same night.

It was the first public test for Djokovic, 30, who shut down his 2017 season after Wimbledon due to an elbow issue.

While he’s been back on the practice court for six weeks, Djokovic admits he’s yet to reach full confidence in his arm just days from the start of the Australian Open.

“I’m still not 100 percent. I’m moving towards 100 percent. Hopefully in three or four days I will be there,” he said on Thursday.

“I played better than I thought might happen (on Wednesday) and most importantly I played without pain.

“It was a great test for me to see where I am, to see how I feel, to hear the score being called and feel the pressure of break points.”

His miserable year will see him seeded 14th, but Djokovic said he was “just grateful that I’m able to be here”.

“I’ll be over the moon if I can play, which I’m planning to. For now everything at the moment is going in the right direction,” he said.

“I’m taking it on a day-by-day basis and doing everything I possibly can.

“Doctors here and back home are working with me.

“If I got to play the way I did yesterday against the number five in the world … I’m happy with that.”

Despite the cloud lingering over his participation at Melbourne Park, betting markets have Djokovic among the top three chances to win the tournament.

The Serb admitted surprise to be ranked so highly after a long stay out of the sport, and the form of evergreen top-two Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“I appreciate that. I’m grateful and flattered that people see me as one of the favourites,” he said.

“But I have to take a step back.

“Roger with the year he had last year and Nadal, I don’t think I’ll be the favourite.

“I haven’t played in six months. I have great results here but I’ll take it a bit more modestly and see how my matches go.”



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