Novak Djokovic made a huge admission after surviving another scare at the Australian Open, admitting he is ‘definitely not’ playing or feeling his best.
Djokovic set up a third-round match against 30th-seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry on Wednesday after battling past Australian world No.43 Alexei Popyrin.
The Serbian was on the ropes at times, losing the second set and saving four set points in the third before battling back in a tie-break to win 6-3 4-6 7-6 6-3.
World No.1 Djokovic, who was involved in a heated exchange with a spectator during his second-round win, has now already dropped more sets at this year’s tournament in two rounds than he did during his entire title run in 2023.
The 36-year-old defending champion was struggling with a wrist injury before the Grand Slam got underway and speaking after his win over Popyrin, Djokovic told Eurosport: ‘I’m definitely not playing and feeling my best.
‘But I’ve been in this situation before many times. Hopefully I will build as the tournament progresses.’
In his on-court interview, Djokovic added: ‘I sincerely hope [I will raise my level]. That is what it will take for me to go deep into the tournament.
‘I haven’t been playing the best. Still trying to find the form but in the early rounds you play players with nothing to lose.
‘They come out on court to try and play their best tennis and I think both my first and second round opponents were really great quality tennis players and I managed to find a way to win in four.
‘Hopefully I will be able to build on this as the tournament progresses.’
Quizzed about being made to save four set points in the third set, Djokovic said: ‘He had quite an easy forehand and he missed it. I didn’t do anything special – he was a better player for a set and a half.
‘Things changed around and the momentum shifted in the tie-break. I put one more ball in the court than he did.
‘I don’t think I played at the highest level. Credit to him for tactically coming out with the right game plan and serving big. He deserves a big round of applause.’