Nadals call bulls*** on Djokovic
Rafael Nadal has declared it would be "impossible" for Novak Djokovic to win the Australian Open if he "really, really" has an injury.
Djokovic's mystery abdominal strain has dominated discussion at Melbourne Park this week as the tennis world doubts the severity of an injury the world number one says would have forced to him pull out of any other tournament but a grand slam.
Djokovic has gone from looking like he could be forced to withdraw to dominating his opponents and it's left everyone confused about whether they should be celebrating his courage or refusing to swallow his potential gamesmanship ahead of his quarterfinal against Alexander Zverev on Tuesday night.
Nadal, who is as polite as it comes when discussing his rivals, was asked to speak generally about playing with injuries but made some pointed comments which connect to Djokovic's situation.
The 34-year-old has been in the same boat Djokovic claims to be in when he played through an abdominal strain at the 2009 US Open - and was left ruing the consequences.
"You do make mistakes because it's impossible to know exactly what's going on when you are competing," he said.
"For example, I remember in the 2009 US Open I started with a strain here in the abdominal.
"I started with six millimetres or so of strain and I finished the tournament, which I lost in the semi-finals, with 26 millimetres. Of course it wasn't a smart decision."
The 20-time grand slam winner said it was unwise to put your health at risk while chasing major titles.
"You need to find a balance, but of course at this point of my career, if there is a big chance to increase something very important, probably I will not play," he said.
"For me the happiness is much more important than give me a chance to win. And at the same time, if you are bad, you will not win. That's clear. If you really have physical problems, you will not win.
"If you have some pain and it's not putting you in a situation that limits you, the movements, maybe you can find a way.
"But when you really, really have an injury, it's impossible to win a tournament like this."
Nadal's uncle Toni, who coached him for most of his career, also took a shot at the Serbian star.
"Who also seems to have overcome his physical problems is Novak Djokovic, who has managed to qualify for the quarter-final round after defeating Canadian Milos Raonic," Toni Nadal wrote in his column for El Pais.
"In the case of the Serbian, it is surprising that so repeatedly annoyances come over him, to the point of sowing doubts about his permanence in the tournament, and then disappear overnight."
Djokovic's health has been a focus since he recovered from dropping sets three and four against Taylor Fritz to win in five and then almost looked his old self again in a four-set win against Milos Raonic on Sunday night.
He has refused to discuss exactly what is wrong, prompting some to cast doubt over the severity of his ailment.
Former top British star Tim Henman also told Eurosport: "He was talking about it being an abdominal tear. Well, if it's an abdominal tear it's almost impossible to carry on."
Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou told Tennis Majors he believes Djokovic is hurt but that is isn't as serious as he is making out.
"Sometimes during the matches, Novak (Djokovic) plays a bit with the mind of the opponent when he's in trouble," he said. "He pretending he's giving up that he's not there. And then, boom, he plays again.
"He's done that a lot of time in the past, OK, but he doesn't fake an injury during a tournament."
"Looking at his performance so far vs Raonic, it is difficult to believe that Novak has an abdominal muscle tear," the super coach added on Twitter.
Even Fritz took a tongue-in-cheek shot at Djokovic when he said: "He looked fine in the fifth.".
Originally published as Nadals call bulls*** on Djokovic