Djokovic fears rivals will expose him for delaying Italian Open match

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Novak Djokovic has refused to speak about any of his ‘physical difficulties’ following his victory over Cameron Norrie at the Italian Open. The world No 1’s success has booked him a spot in the quarter-finals of the competition, where he will face Holger Rune on Thursday, though initially delayed his Round of 16 clash after an injury problem in his warm-up.

Djokovic was in flying form against Norrie in an incredibly heated contest, winning 6-3, 6-4. However, the nature of the success was not the main talking point in Rome, as the match played out in a rather ‘unsportsmanlike’ fashion.

Norrie was criticised by his opponent for striking him with a ball, calling a late timeout and also continuing to shout ‘come on’. Djokovic was also scrutinised after the start of the match was delayed, though the top seed refused to detail whether that was a fitness concern.

He told the Telegraf: “I don’t want to talk about physical difficulties, because all that is used in rival camps. I am glad that I somehow managed to break the ice and finish the match in two sets. That’s what matters.

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“It’s not the first time, with my team I got used to how to position myself, in a faster and better way, today it wasn’t ideal honestly, I felt pain during the warm-up, I didn’t have much time, basically I went into the match with difficulties.”

Djokovic was reluctant to detail his physical concerns with a match against Rune on the horizon, concerned that outlining an injury could prompt a change in tactics from his opponent. He is also keen to secure victory in Rome before heading to the French Open, and there is no guarantee that the unknown issue will be resolved by the time the competition comes around.

Djokovic appeared quite unhappy as he left the court on Tuesday, though Norrie’s behaviour has largely been blamed for that rather than injury concerns. Speaking after the match, he said: “I got along with Cameron really well all these years that he’s been on the tour. Practised with each other. He’s a very nice guy off the court, so I don’t understand this kind of attitude on the court, to be honest.

“But it is what it is. He brought the fire, and I responded to that. I’m not going to allow someone behaving like this just bending my head. I’m going to respond to that. That’s all it is. What happens on the court, we leave it on the court, and we move on.”

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