Australian Open 2023: Irritable and injured, Novak Djokovic faces take a look at from his ‘Balkan brother’

Grand Slam fever grips tennis followers all around the world because the 2023 Australian Open kicks off. For the subsequent fortnight, The Indian Express will carry you the most important storylines of the day, and the very best matches to look at at timings appropriate for Indian audiences, each morning.

Showcase match
(4) Novak Djokovic vs (27) Grigor Dimitrov (Round of 32)

1.30pm, Rod Laver Arena

Novak Djokovic returned to Melbourne with a constructive reception, with the Australian crowd and him each able to put final 12 months’s weird storyline behind them. But his return, in its first week, has not been as snug as he would have preferred.

Djokovic arrived with damage bother, having felt tightness in his hamstring on his strategy to his first title of the 12 months on the Adelaide tune-up. The damage has received worse, as Djokovic failed to coach persistently forward of his first two matches, and has wanted to wrap it up in protecting tape.

“My situation with my injury is not ideal,” he mentioned after his second-round win over Enzo Couacaud. “I am not practising basically on the days between (matches) because I’m trying to give myself more time possible for my leg to be in somewhat of an ‘ideal’ state for performance on a high level.”

The hamstring will not be the one supply of his uneasiness. Djokovic has reduce a pissed off determine for many of his time on court docket, being distracted by one factor or one other. On Thursday, it was a heckler, whom he described as “drunk out of his mind” who got here to Melbourne Park to impress him and never watch tennis, in an argument with the chair umpire.

When not on the court docket, Djokovic has taken goal on the media. Pre-tournament, he sympathised with the folks of Melbourne who took subject along with his attempting to enter with out vaccination having confronted stringent lockdown protocols, however blamed the media for deceptive the general public, and making him a “villain of the world”.

More lately, he took a jab at event broadcaster Eurosport, who posted a video on social media of an change between him and a chair umpire, claiming that he ran off the court docket to make use of the washroom and defied her regardless of him not having a delegated rest room break.

He referred to as the channel out on Instagram and spoke later about how he felt focused by the media. “The media is trying to publicly lynch me,” he mentioned, within the warmth of the second, whereas talking to Serbian reporters on Thursday.

Not in prime kind

He has griped and grimaced by his first few days in Melbourne, and it has affected his degree, dropping the second set within the second spherical as a result of restrictions in his motion because of the hamstring, and distractions from the group.

Lapses can’t be afforded in opposition to his subsequent opponent, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, dubbed by Djokovic his “Balkan Brother” whom he is aware of rather well off the court docket, regardless of final having met him on the court docket in 2019.

Dimitrov was as soon as a promising up-and-comer on tour. His blistering serve, versatile one-handed backhand, and tendency to come back to the web and end factors early, had earned him the nickname of ‘Baby Federer’. He reached the semifinal on the Australian Open – his favorite Major – in 2017, the identical 12 months he gained the ATP Finals and reached a career-high rating of World No. 3.

Despite his profession meandering for just a few years, the 31-year-old has arrived in Melbourne wanting dangerously aggressive. He has navigated difficult early assignments, in opposition to Aslan Karatsev and Laslo Djere, with exceptional ease. The Bulgarian has a tournament-leading 59% of first serves unreturned, and has confronted just one break level, which he saved. Both he and Djokovic are the one gamers within the males’s draw but to be damaged.

This is prone to be the form of take a look at a high participant makes use of to play themselves into kind at a Major. An early fixture in opposition to a peaking opponent that permits them to gauge their degree by going toe to toe from the baseline, and take a look at a few of their ways. Expect Djokovic to combine issues up extra, come as much as the web (he has gained 54/61 factors on the internet in two matches) and put in loads of low backhand slices and drop photographs to make Dimitrov transfer and disrupt his rhythm.

More importantly, regulate whether or not the nine-time champion is ready to keep match, and reduce the distractions out, to strengthen his bid to raise the title he’s the overwhelming favorite for.

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