Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open return hit a major hurdle after the nine-time champion cut short a practice match – as a rival slammed a plan to ban fans who boo the controverisal star.
The nine-time champion was forced to cut short a scheduled practice match on Wednesday against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev after requiring medical attention on a number of occasions throughout the session on Rod Laver Arena.
He complained of hamstring trouble last weekend on his way to the Adelaide International title.
Djokovic led 3-2 but won just one more game for the set before calling quits on the practice match on Wednesday afternoon.
The injury scare could be a disaster for Open organisers who have promoted a sold-out exhibition match between Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios on Rod Laver Arena on Friday night.
Tickets sold out in 58 minutes for the match with all proceeds going to charity. It will be Kyrgios’ first match for the year as he has battled ankle/knee issues in the lead-up to the Open.
Djokovic revealed in Adelaide he tweaked his hamstring during a semi-final victory over Medvedev before recovering to claim the title over Sebastian Korda 24 hours later.
“I woke up all right. Went deep into the night last night with work done with the physio,” Djokovic said last weekend.
“Talk with the doctors, as well, of the tournament . . . a few times in the match I felt I was tightening up the muscle, but nothing that would worry me for my performance.”
The Australian Open draw, where Djokovic is expected to be seeded No.4, is set to be held at 3pm on Thursday at Melbourne Park.
‘SAY WHAT YOU WANT’: STAR SLAMS NOVAK BOO BAN
Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka says fans should be able to “do whatever they want” at the year’s opening grand slam.
Tournament boss Craig Tiley warned fans in Wednesday’s Herald Sun that punters will be booted from Melbourne Park if they unfairly target Serbian star Novak Djokovic, who is returning to the Australian Open for the first time since he was sensationally deported from the country on the eve of last year’s tournament following a coronavirus vaccine stoush.
Tiley said fans who unreasonably taunt Djokovic and “disrupt the enjoyment of anyone else – boom, they are out … we don’t want them on site.”
But Wawrinka, who won the 2014 Australian Open, said “that’s tennis”.
“If they go over the limit (then yes), but I think they should be allowed to do whatever they want,” the three-time grand slam winner told the Herald Sun.
“They do it every year with every player – if they don’t like the player, or they like another one, they will boo one and cheer for the other one. That’s tennis. That’s sport. That’s what you want.
“So of course, things happened with Novak last year, and I think there was many mistakes from different (parties) – not only Novak.
“I do believe they will not boo him. They will be happy to see him and it’s going to be a great tournament.”
Wawrinka, 37, was at Baby Pizza on Chapel Street as he launched his exclusive “Stan Pizza” in conjunction with Piper-Heidsieck.
Just down the road at the Kooyong Classic, British champion Andy Murray – who has claimed five Australian Open titles and came back to defeat China’s Zhang Zhizen – said being jeered was “not a nice feeling”.
“I don’t necessarily like seeing players getting booed,” Murray said on Wednesday.
“Obviously anyone’s entitled to respond however they want when they pay tickets to come and watch.
“It’s not a nice feeling for players when that happens. I saw Novak’s match in Adelaide and he got great support there and I’m sure that it’ll probably be the same in Melbourne.”
Originally published as Australian Open 2023 news: Novak Djokovic injury scare, Stan Wawrinka responds to boo ban
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