World No. 1 Novak Djokovic pulled out of the first event of the Aussie tennis summer just minutes before his scheduled start time — and then showed up halfway through his own match.
On a crazy day of twists and mysteries, Djokovic fronted media in Adelaide on Friday morning before he was scheduled to feature in the Day at the Drive event on the iconic Memorial Drive court.
Djokovic told reporters he was looking forward to his first match since completing his 14 days of quarantine — but world filtered through just a few hours later that he was out.
While it is yet to be confirmed, Djokovic was reported to have withdrawn as a result of “multi-layered blisters on his right hand”.
He confirmed after the match that he needed to receive treatment on the blisters and did not feel up to playing a full competitive match.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t step in on the court from the beginning,” he told the Adelaide crowd.
“I had to do some treatment with my physio and I wasn’t feeling my best the last couple of days.
“Then I didn’t know how I’m going to react and, you know, I wanted to play, I wanted to get out here. Hopefully it was enough for you guys to see all three of us performing in front of you on the court today. I hope you enjoyed it.”
Just minutes before the start of the event, officials announced Serbian Filip Krajinović would replace Djokovic.
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The bizarre series of events got weirder on Friday afternoon with Aussie tennis great John Fitzgerald telling Channel 9 there were rumours floating around that Djokovic would make an appearance and play part of the match he was scheduled to play against Italian Jannik Sinner.
“There is a rumour floating around here that the great man, Novak, might make an appearance here,” he said.
“He obviously has problems with his hand. He’s got his mate, Serbian mate (Krajinovic), out here playing for him. But we are hear strong rumours that he might wander out at some stage.”
The rumours proved to be correct when Krajinovic took the first set 6-3 before Djokovic walked out onto court.
He took a racquet from Krajinovic and got straight into the action, taking over for the second set.
He spent 31 minutes on court on his way to a 6-3 second set win, giving his Serbian team a 6-3 6-3 win over Sinner.
Djokovic earlier said he was excited to get out of quarantine and play.
“We are just thrilled to be out, it feels just a little bit strange to be honest,” he said.
“At the end of the day we are out we are trying to play tennis and bring some good positive emotions to people, that’s why we are here to provide entertainment, passion and fun.”
The hand issue is not expected to impact Djokovic’s preparations for the Australian Open, beginning on February 8, and he is expected to compete in next week’s ATP Cup.