Novak Djokovic sent Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal warning amid Australian Open injury fear

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Novak Djokovic has been warned he must win the Australian Open if he wants to end up as superior to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. There are concerns the Serbian’s quest to defend his title this year will be affected by a side injury.

The eight-time Melbourne champion, who is chasing a record-extending ninth triumph at the Rod Laver Arena, took to the court to face Canadian Milos Raonic in the fourth round on Sunday.

The final match of the Sunday night session was clouded in uncertainty however and it was uncertain if Djokovic would even turn up to play due to injury.

The 33-year-old suffered what he called a muscle tear in the previous round when he defeated American Taylor Fritz in five sets.

Djokovic needed a medical timeout in the third set but recovered in the fifth for victory to set up a showdown with Raonic.

He skipped practice on Saturday to undergo an MRI scan on the issue and while few extra details were released prior to his match against Raonic, was well enough to take to the court again.

But Eurosport expert and three-time Australian Open winner Mats Wilander believes the saga will have been “stressful” for the world No 1.

And he insists the Serbian is under pressure to win in Australia this month to move on to 18 Grand Slams.

Long-time rivals Nadal and Federer are both on a joint-record 20 majors apiece with the Swiss icon absent from the Slam and the Spaniard facing Fabio Fognini in the fourth round on Monday.

Speaking before Djokovic took on Raonic, who the top seed was 11-0 against before facing him a 12th time on Sunday, Wilander said: “It must be extremely stressful.

“He’s not running out of time but he kind of needs to win this Australian Open to get a little closer to Roger and Rafa in the race to be the best player in history.

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“I think it’s tough. I know he’s never lost to Raonic but I think it’s a tough opponent to play when you’ve got an injury.

“Raonic is not going to let up, he’s going to serve big and keep coming at you.”

Former British No 1 Tim Henman said: “I had a few elbow and shoulder injuries, they were the main ones for me.

“As you say, sometimes if it’s an issue with a joint, it can almost loosen up as the adrenaline starts flowing as you start warming up and it can get a little bit better.

“It was interesting hearing Novak talking about a tear because if you’ve torn something, then I really don’t think it looks good.

“It was difficult to work out in that match [vs Fritz] because he still looked like he was able to serve pretty effectively. He said it was problems twisting from the back of the court.

“As Mats said, it’s really up in the air. The first few games will be interesting to see how he’s moving.

“When you’re playing such a big server, you know Raonic is going to be banging them down at 220ks, you’ve got to be able to react so quickly and make those fast twitch movements.

“If he’s struggling that’s where Raonic has a chance.”

If he beats Raonic, Djokovic will face Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals of the 2021 Australian Open. He is looking to win the tournament for the third straight year.

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