Novak Djokovic during his match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on Friday. Pic/AFP
Novak Djokovic admits that his push towards a record-setting 23rd Grand Slam title is at the mercy of a "long list" of injuries at the French Open with "pills and angels" amongst the cures.
Djokovic, chasing a third Roland Garros title, reached the fourth round for a 14th successive year on Friday with a bruising 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win over Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. At three hours and 36 minutes it was the longest three-set match of his career.
The gruelling nature of the clash meant the Serb star required a medical timeout between the second and third sets to treat a left thigh strain.
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The Court Philippe Chatrier crowd reacted with jeers to which the World No. 3 responded with a thumbs-up and sarcastic round of applause. "We don't have much time to start to name the many injuries I have, the list is quite long," said the 36-year-old Djokovic.
"I don't want to sit here and talk about these things that are not preventing me from playing. I still kept on playing." He added: "These are the circumstances that you have to deal with. Sometimes you need help from the physio. Sometimes you need pills. Sometimes you need help from god or angels."
In January, Djokovic won a 10th Australian Open title despite playing with a three-centimetre tear in his hamstring. His build-up to the French Open was then hampered by the return of a long-standing elbow problem. "The reality for me nowadays is that my body is responding differently than it did a few years ago," added Djokovic. "I have to adjust to this new reality."
Meanwhile, World No. 4 Elena Rybakina withdrew from the French Open on Saturday due to illness. "I was not feeling good yesterday and the day before. I didn't sleep last night," said the 23-year-old Wimbledon champion. "I had fever and a headache and it's difficult to breathe. I tried to play in the warm-up but I feel it's the right decision to withdraw." In other results, Iga Swiatek thumped Chinese player Wang Xinyu without losing a game to reach the fourth round on Saturday. The World No. 1 won 6-0, 6-0 in just 51 minutes.
World No. 4 Casper Ruud reached the French Open last 16 on Saturday with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 win over China's Zhang Zhizhen. Zhang, 26, was bidding to become the first Chinese man since 1936 to reach the fourth round in Paris. And Coco Gauff ended Mirra Andreeva's magical French Open debut with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-1 win on Saturday.
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