express– Novak Djokovic pulled out of his exhibition clash with Jannik Sinner this morning sparking big injury concerns ahead of the Australian Open. However, the Serbian stunned fans by performing a U-turn and playing the second set.
The world No 1 was headlining the afternoon session in Adelaide but withdrew from the match just half an hour before it was due to start.
Djokovic claimed his hands were badly blistered and he did not want to risk making the problem any worse.
The 33-year-old’s fellow countryman Filip Krajinovic stepped in played the opening set, which he won 6-3.
Djokovic then appeared for the second to wrap up the set by the same score.
“I am sorry that I didn’t step on the court from the beginning,” he said. “I had to do some treatment with my physio and wasn’t feeling my best the last couple of days.
“I wanted to play. It’s not easy but it’s part of what we do. We are professional athletes, we learn over the years to play with the pain. It’s just a case whether that pain is bearable or not.
“Coming off from the hard training block and having ATP Cup and the Australian Open around the corner, you don’t want to risk it too much. But the emotion in me was so strong to come out to the court today. Seeing the full stands today, I had to play.”
A host of tennis players, including Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, spent two weeks in quarantine after arriving in Australia ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season.
They were released on Thursday to begin their training ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season.
There has been controversy in the build up as players have complained about their quarantine conditions.
Djokovic wrote a letter to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley asking for improvements to be made.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner came under huge fire for complaining about the situation.
Even Nadal took a swipe at Djokovic for his actions.
“We all try to help each other,” the Spaniard told ESPN.
“Some need to make public all they do to try to help others, while some of us do it privately without publishing our calls or making propaganda with it.”
He added: “It is understandable, respectable. Where is the line of privileges? I have a different view,” Nadal added.
“Here in Adelaide our conditions have been better than most of the conditions in Melbourne, but some Melbourne players have larger rooms where they can perform physical activities, others smaller rooms where they cannot have contact with their coach or physical trainer. Where is the line?
“It is a matter of ethics, of which each one has his opinion.
“I have not heard any Melbourne players complain that they have a better room or about those who have been confined without being able to train.
“I have not seen those who complain so much about our conditions in Adelaide say, ‘Why are there not equal conditions, now we will all go without training’.
“You always look up, always complain about a disadvantageous position.”