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Djokovic plays down injury concern after rare loss Down Under

Updated: 2024-01-05 09:11
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Novak Djokovic. [Photo/Agencies]

PERTH, Australia — Novak Djokovic expects to be back in full shape for the Australian Open starting next week after a wrist injury prevented him from finding his best level during a 6-4, 6-4 defeat by Alex de Minaur on Wednesday.

Djokovic suffered his first defeat in Australia for six years as De Minaur put the host on course for a 2-0 win over Serbia in their United Cup quarterfinal.

"I knew that probably, (I was) not going to be at 100 percent physically, emotionally, mentally game-wise in the opening week of a season. Neither did I expect that," Djokovic, who had to have treatment on the wrist for the second day running, told a news conference.

"I was not on my level but it was just one of these days when I didn't feel my best on the court, and (my) opponent played very well."

However, the record 10-time Australian Open winner appeared optimistic about overcoming the wrist issue ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season.

"I think I'll be OK, to be honest," he said.

" (The wrist injury) did have quite an impact, particularly on the forehand and serve. (But) I have plenty of time, I think enough time to get myself in the right shape for the Australian Open.

"The process is not strange to me. It's not unusual. I've been in this kind of situation so many times and I know what I need to do along with my team to get myself ready... I hope that I will not be injured this time around.

"That's what we're going to work on, to get my body in the right shape, optimal state, so that I can perform at the high level throughout hopefully the entire Australian Open."

The 2024 Australian Open will be played between Jan 14-28.

'Extra special'

After Djokovic's loss, Ajla Tomljanovic followed up by giving Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead when she won 6-1, 6-1 against Natalija Stevanovic, who had stepped in for Olga Danilovic. Matthew Ebden and Storm Hunter then completed the rout by combining for a 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Serbian mixed doubles duo Dejana Radanovic and Nikola Cacic.

"It's extra special," De Minaur said as Australia sealed its maiden appearance in the semifinals. "Novak is an unbelievable competitor and what he's done for the sport is pretty special. It feels surreal, amazing, and I'm very happy to do it here in Perth.

"When you go up against Novak you have to go out and enjoy it and back yourself, and no matter what keep fighting until the end. Today was my day and I'm happy that I was able to get the win."

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat No 14 Zheng Qinwen 6-2, 6-3 to give Poland a winning 2-0 lead after Hubert Hurkacz's 6-3, 6-4 victory over Zhang Zhizhen.

Polish pair Katarzyna Piter and Jan Zielinski sealed the sweep with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-7 win over You Xiaodi and Sun Fajing in the mixed doubles.

The Poland team will travel across Australia for Saturday's semifinals in Sydney, where they will play either France or Norway.

"I really wanted to go to Sydney especially because my coach (Tomasz Wiktorowski) told me that I can get three days off in Sydney afterward," the 22-year-old Swiatek said. "So, for sure Bondi Beach is waiting for us.

"But for now we've got to focus on the semifinal and hopefully the final. I'm really happy with my game and how the atmosphere in the team is."

Earlier in Sydney, Caroline Garcia and Adrian Mannarino led France past Italy.

Mannarino overcame Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets before Garcia beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to give France a 2-0 lead and confirm top spot in Group D.

"We have gone a step further than last year," Garcia said. "Obviously we're very happy with it and we want to keep going."

French pair Elixane Lechemia and Edouard Roger-Vasselin completed the sweep with a straight-sets win in the mixed doubles.

No 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas returned after missing Greece's opener against Chile to defeat Canada's Steven Diez 6-2, 6-3 and give his team the lead.

Maria Sakkari sealed Greece's spot in the quarterfinals when she saved four set points in the first set and then came back from 3-1 down in the second to beat Leylah Fernandez 7-6 (2), 6-3. Tsitsipas and Despina Papamichail also beat Stacey Fung and Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-5,6-4 in the mixed doubles.


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