Novak Djokovic said world no. 1 Carlos Alcaraz’s withdrawal from the Australian Open is ‘not good for tennis’, although the Serb’s chances of a tenth title have been greatly boosted by his clear cruisy draw.
The young Spanish superstar, who became the youngest player to reach the no. 1 in the world after winning the US Open in September, withdrew from the upcoming tournament in Melbourne after suffering a hamstring injury during training.
It gives the Serbian a big boost as he looks to earn a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam, not that he was focused when talking about Alcaraz’s untimely departure in the wake of a raft of lost stars.
Novak Djokovic (left) says Carlos Alcaraz’s (right) withdrawal from the Australian Open with a hamstring injury is ‘not good for tennis’.
‘Obviously, it’s not good for tournament, not good for tennis,’ Djokovic said on Saturday following his Adelaide International semi-final win, when asked about the 19-year-old’s withdrawal from the upcoming Open.
‘He is number one in the world. Very young player. A big name, a big star in our sport. I’m sure many of the fans are disappointed. I hope for his speedy recovery.’
The Serb, who is gunning for his tenth Australian Open title after winning his first in 2008, said the grueling nature of the ATP tour meant injuries were unfortunately a reality for players.
Novak Djokovic, pictured with the 2020 Australian Open trophy, is gunning for a record-extending tenth title when the 2022 tournament begins on January 16
‘Whatever it is, I know he had an injury at the end of last season that was different from this,’ he said.
‘You’re always on the road, playing competitions. When you’re not in that rhythm, your body can react.
‘You can have some injuries and difficulties when you come back on tour and start pushing more and playing points, giving more intensity to points, practice points, practice matches.
‘It’s sad for him (but) he’s still young, there’s a lot of time. I hope he recovers and gets back on tour quickly,’ said a hopeful Djokovic, who has become hugely popular with Aussie fans since arriving Down Under for the Adelaide International, his Open preparation.
Alcaraz became the youngest ever to reach the top spot after defeating Casper Ruud in the US Open final in New York in September.
Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest world no. 1 in history when he defeated Casper Ruud in the 2022 US Open final in September – although he has since struggled with injury
The teenage superstar had just recovered from a torn stomach muscle that ruled him out of the season-ending ATP Finals before a hamstring injury in a preseason training session meant he had to pull out of the historic Melbourne event.
But Daniil Medvedev, who Alcaraz succeeded as world No.1, had an encouraging message for the teenager, prompting him to bounce back quickly.
‘What a waste. The way he (Alacaraz) played at 18 years old, he could be a little bit kind of Rafa, Novak, Roger kind of guy,’ said the Russian, who played in the last two Australian Open finals, without a win.
‘But he still has 19 slams to win, so it’s a shame he didn’t play the next one. It will be fun to watch. I’m sure he’ll come back stronger.’
It’s certainly a blow for Aussie tennis fans after a succession of high-profile withdrawals and injury concerns.
Novak Djokovic has been in brilliant form at the Adelaide International, and was pictured beating Daniil Medvedev in the semi final on Saturday night
Of course, the retired superstar trio is also absent: Ash Barty, Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
What it does mean, however, is that fan favorite Djokovic now stands remarkably in almost irreversible favoritism with the bookies.
That’s despite last year’s champion Rafael Nadal being top seeded, with even the aging superstar stuck in a rut of consistently poor form as he enters the end of his illustrious career.
With Alcaraz’s withdrawal, Djokovic is the fourth seed for the tournament, which begins on January 16.
The elevation means the 35-year-old is guaranteed to avoid playing higher-ranked rivals – Nadal, Ruud or Stefanos Tsitsipas – until at least the semi-finals.
As a result, Djokovic stands strong in the TAB.com.au market to win the tournament, with the Serb sitting at $1.95, with Medvedev the next favorite at $5.50.
A stunning sunset framed the 2021 Australian Open semi final as Novak Djokovic defeated retired Roger Federer at Rod Laver Arena
Aussie Nick Kyrgios – who has yet to enjoy success at his home Grand Slam singles – is the third favourite, with Nadal ($12); while Felix Auger Aliassime ($14), Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner ($17) and Holger Rune ($21) sit at the back.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for Djokovic after the deportation saga that rocked last year’s Australian Open.
First he successfully overturned his three-year visa ban in November, allowing the nine-time champion to return to Melbourne to extend his own record of most Australian Open titles.
Now his main challenger is out of the tournament and Djokovic – who this week extended his five-year unbeaten run in Australia to 32 matches in Adelaide – will once again be seen lifting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in Rod Laver Arena this coming January 29.