Novak Djokovic survives crowd, hamstring trouble

Australian Open carnage threatens to worsen

A paralyzed Novak Djkovic walked away with a four-set win on Thursday night over a player ranked just inside the world top 200, but with such a question mark over a ruptured hamstring that there must be doubt as to whether he will survive the highly-skilled heavyweights he would need to conquer to win the Australian Open for the 10th time.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia.Credit:Getty

Put these words in the fridge to eat on Sunday of the week, accompanied by the winner’s champagne.

The first of his next-level opponents on Saturday will be Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, once considered the next big thing and still quite a respectable figure. Of course, the heavyweight cohort has been significantly thinned out in what has become a Star Crossed tournament. World No. 1 isn’t here at all, and the top two seeds are both out, as are two others in the top 12. This is only the second round, remember.

For a fleeting moment on Thursday night it looked like fourth-placed Djokovic, who is almost invincible on those places, would join them for an early departure. Midway through the second set against French Chancellor No. 191 Enzo Couacaud, Djokovic’s left hamstring began to mourn him, necessitating a lengthy injury layoff and out-of-court treatment. He lost the set in the tie-break and at the moment it wasn’t clear if he could finish the match.

The on-pitch interviewer, Josh Eagle, didn’t ask Djokovic about his hamstring after the game, which even Djokovic seemed to be amazed by. The fans were left with his somewhat dejected and world-weary conclusion: “Well, yes, let’s get on with it.”

He finally completed the game with the authority you can expect. But for stretches, Couacaud played him as near equal and equal. With all due respect to Couacaud – and the crowd gave him a lot for his courage and daring – this was more instructive about Djokovic than him.

In fact, they came from different tennis cases. The definition sounds like an old joke. When asked how he could beat Djokovic, Couacaud said his coach once coached a player who once played against Djokovic. As if he weren’t already handicapped enough, Couacaud turned around early in the game and needed a timeout of his own, although he appeared to play without restriction after that. Novak Djokovic survives crowd, hamstring trouble

Ryan Sederquist

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