What Back Injury? Novak Djokovic Plays Football In Belgrade Charity Event [Video]
by Tom Gainey | September 27th, 2011, 6:44 pm

Novak Djokovic’s bad back must be back to health! The World No. 1 today took part in a special soccer (football) event called “Battle For Babies” in Belgrade’s Red Star stadium.

The charity match placed the Red Star women’s team against the crew from the Serbia film “Montevideo, God Bless You!”

Djokovic joined the women’s side scoring a goal in the penalty for a 4-2 win.

The event raised nearly 600,000 dinaras ($8K USD) which will go toward the purchase of new baby incubators for maternity hospitals across Serbia.

Djokovic said he did not hestitate to help with the cause because of the importance in making sure mothers and their babies have better conditions.

Djokovic is scheduled to play Beijing next week and then the Shanghai Masters on October 10th. He has been recovering from a back injury her first suffered at the US Open and then re-aggravated during the Davis Cup 10 days ago.

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57 Comments for What Back Injury? Novak Djokovic Plays Football In Belgrade Charity Event [Video]

Anna Says:

I’m sure Novak wouldn’t be playing if it weren’t safe to do so, and I think it’s great he’s giving his time for such a great cause.

Patty Says:

No comment!!!

jane Says:

He said he’d know by this Friday whether or not he has the go ahead from his doctor/trainers to play the Asian swing. It was his “intercostal” (?) muscle that was partially torn, so it affects his serve and forehand most I guess. Not sure it would matter as much in football.

zora Says:

Only 2 days ago their DC team doctor explained to the press the results of Novak’s second MRI, saying he needs to rest & rehab some more before the next evaluation.

So, he went and played some soccer, hustling and twisting like crazy (check out the photos on Getty).

That same doctor said last week that rest & rehab will take 4 weeks. Now they say they’ll see this Friday whether he can play Beijing which starts next week.

Very dodgy.

dari Says:

In my mind novak had already pulled out of shanghai, didn’t know decision was pending.
Intercostal muscle strain would effect EVERYTHING I imagine, breathing even, but you know, it could have been minor
I think I’m done with injury/retirement stuff, I cant keep up.
I’m a fed fan, so I’m not used to it. Muah hahahahah

Dory Says:

Exactly. As jane said, running would not affect his particular injury as much as serving and his forehand would. Nole certainly wouldn’t risk anything without consulting the right people.

tina Says:

not one comment about what a great thing to do for a current #1 – to give his time, effort, attention to a wonderful cause and even contribute funds from his own Novak foundation to the overall success of this charity. Small mindedness of those who go straight to digging dirt instead of realizing the wonderful things about the event and the outcome. And, oh yes – the back injury? When someone exerts himself and wins as many matches as Novak did, surely it had to hurt after so much repetitive motion, surely he needed rest. Today it was a new day, a chance to do something to help, to bring awareness. He took time away from his rest, he took some risk. That’s what great people do, for a worthy cause. On Friday, he and his team will be able to determine if he can play 10-12 more competitive matches – that’s entirely different matter. He won 3 grand slams, has 10 titles in a single season, his body has to recuperate, but in the mean time he is spending time with family, friends, contributing with his time and funds to worthy causes, while some people have nothing positive to say, while the great, incredible and fantastic achievements and deeds on and off the court are undeniable facts.

WTF Says:

He risked his back for a charity exo to only raise $8k? Definitely not worth it.

Miles Says:

Or, he definitely did not have a back injury at all.

Or, it was just a niggle, and he just pretended it was much more serious, to justify retirement, seeing that Del Potro was too strong that day.

Wog boy Says:

It was a great cause. Good on you, good man NOLITO.

I really hope you are going to give it a miss to Asian tour.

@ZORA…..it is as dodgy as 3GS, 5 masters and few more in first 8 months. Don’t you think that it is more dodgy when somebody who made only one final during summer season says, he needs a rest becouse it was long and tiring summer season. If that is the case then Rafa and Novak should take 2 months break or the rest of season.
Let’ go Novak, let’s go….you are writing tennis history.

jane Says:

He also visited a preschool this week, as part of his Unicef work for early childhood education.

tina Says:

let’s not zero on the irrelevant issue here – how much was raised – (8K etc..), enough was reaised to buy 1 incubator, the rest (funds for 5 more were added by Novak’s foundation, and another was funded by others) according to the press. So-again – he gave his time and funds to do something positive, but the word “positive” is probably a very distant, elusive word for those who can’t see anything good in it. Sad. Luckily there are many more who can appreciate the obvious benefit of such event

skeezerweezer Says:


Not worth the risk? Since when is charity measured that way if it is truly from the heart?

peter Says:

“surely he needed rest”???

Hello? He pretended he was horribly injured 9 days ago. He screamed in agony and fell down in pain. He retired from a live DC rubber. He said he’ll need a month to heal and might skip Beijing & Shanghai.

Now he plays soccer, after just 9 days. Who gives a fig for what cause. He faked injury, that is the news here, not some charity.

john Says:

@Peter What are you talking about? The football is played by legs, not by arms.

Wog boy Says:

Before you say that Novak faked injury, read the news again and you will find out who was playing against who.
Women against beer belly film crew. Do you realy beleive that Novak had to do much running.” You can not be serious.”
That was just fun for great cause.
Do you think that Novak has people around him, that would not let Peter find out that he was faking injury :-))

Michael Says:

What back Injury?????? The man is a cheat and a fake. How many more injuries is he going to fake? Oh yes, when he is losing!!!!

dean Says:

Don’t care much for these pathetic comments about fake injuries. Just wanted to say well done Novak raising money for a great cause. As for you haters, please hide yourselves in utter shame. You are a disgrace.

Patty Says:

I think Novak had better learn to take a loss the “manly” way rather than fake an injury on court. It looks wimpy and is becoming almost perdictable.
Trying to raise money for charity is nice and the publicity can’t hurt his image but he had better clean up his on court dramatics!

Wog boy Says:

Retirement records:
Davydenko. 15
Delpo. 12
Roddick. 11
Coria. 9
Djokovic. 9
Nadal. 6
Safin. 5

I pick this up from another forum. If Novak has to brake this record in order to keep wining GS, masters etc. I am pretty sure he can live with that and particulary we ,Novak’s fans. In 10-20 years time they are going to remember only wining records, none is going to care about retirements.
Go you good thing, go Novak. AJDEEEEE. NOLEEEE

mat4 Says:

Come on…We sometimes make too much about nothing.

The players want to earn more and play less? Me to, I would like to make more money and work less. They fake injuries? They lost those matches anyway. They say a lot of nonsense in their interviews? Everybody speaks nonsense half of the time. They are nice, classy, not so cozy, not so classy…

So what? Does it really matter? Shouldn’t we focus more on their tennis, on their performance on the court?

Dory Says:

It is amazing of Nole to do this for the kids. He has always been a responsible and charitable guy, always doing something for the not so fortunate people, like Federer and Nadal also do. :)

Dory Says:

I think some stricter moderation is needed on this site to keep the haters and trolls away.

Kimberly Says:

Dory, i think the point of this article was kind of to spark the debate, why else title it “what back injury” just my opinion.

Frankly I could care less. Top players always make excuses if they lose. That’s why they are top players, they believe in their hearts they are better than the rest and should win every match. If they don’t say it out loud they certainly think it. I’ll take my fav as an example that way I can’t be called a hater, tired against Fish, unlucky against Dodig, didn’t play his best against Djoko, tired against Tsonga at queens, injured against Ferrer at Ao, sick against Davy at Doha. I am sure Rafa fully believes this.

I could care less whether Djoko was injured or not against Delpo and Murray. He certainly was not feeling great but whether it was serious or not doesn’t make any difference. When you choose to play, you choose to win or lose.

jane Says:

As per Sampras, they had dinner when Nole was in LA before the Canada event:

“We had dinner, and we just talked for a couple of hours…He’s really a nice kid, very sincere and he was interested in my career and how I stayed up on top of the game, which is what he’s trying to do. I just told him what I tried to do, for my personality, was to try and keep it simple. At the Grand Slams I never wanted to do anything because I only wanted to focus on my tennis. I think he took what I said to heart.”

“nice kid” “very sincere” – kind words from Pete.

jane Says:

Kimberly, agree, and agree. They all deal with things differently, they all cope with losses and injuries differently, and that’s just because they are all different so we cannot expect them to be cookie cutters and perfectly saintly all the time. If the throw in the towel too soon, make excuses, express sour grapes, it’s just that they are human. And as you say, all players hate to lose, and perhaps especially the ones at the top who expect themselves to win. For a while there, Nole was almost too gracious of a loser. :/

Humble Rafa Says:

In Mallorca, we are raising USD 2.5K this month. Novak is welcome to join and play tennis.

Humble Rafa Says:

You should know that “Pete” is trying to sell his “mentoring service” to tennis players. I am sure Novak didn’t buy his bullsh*t.

Mourinho Says:

FYI, footbal is not “played by legs, not by arms”.

Football is played with your whole body. With each kick you spread your arms for balance and your trunk goes into torsion, particularly your back, i.e. your dorsal intercostal muscles, one of which Djokovic claims to have ruptured.

So yeah, there was no serious injury in his match against Del Potro. Ruptured muscle does not heal in 9 days.

grendel Says:

“He also visited a preschool this week, as part of his Unicef work for early childhood education.”

That’s not work in the sense of “drudge” – the kind of work the vast majority of people in the world are obliged to do. It is something he clearly finds quite interesting, quite rewarding, and he is highly fortunate to be in a position to do it. Of course, you could say that his excellent tennis has earned him this privilege. Fair enough, he’s lucky but to a degree he has earned his luck. The same is true for other top sportsmen.

dari Says:

Sometimes what I wonder what the pain level of some of the players on retirement/MTO is. Novak was doubled over at dcup, so I’m not reqllt questioning that, but sometimes i wonder, is the pain so excruciating and we don’t know what it feels like because we never play at that level, or are there sometimes injuries that we feel when we play, but we keep playing because we don’t have a “career” to think about and they quite when they feel as a precaution?
Im sure its a mix, but im always curious about that.

grendel Says:

dari, the thought that comes to mind (after reading your post)is: why did Djokovic turn up in the final at Cincinnati? In some interview after the match, he implied that normally, feeling the way he was (shoulder and so on) he would not have played. However, it being a Masters Final, a chap couldn’t just withdraw.

But why not? If you’re poorly, you’re poorly, can’t be helped – however inconvenient. What is the point of playing when 1)you can’t remotely give your all – especially on serve, which just happens to be the most crucial stroke in tennis and 2)there is a strong possibility that you are going to retire anyway at some point, especially if you have Djokovic’s history in this respect. He remarked afterwards that is was not possible to beat a player of Murray’s quality if you’re only three quarters fit. Which begs the original question, of course.

Naturally, some players would have soldiered on anyway, even though the task was hopeless. That is gallantry. Don’t expect gallantry from a champion. In short, Dari, I suspect Djokovic gambled that he might have been able to beat Murray even when holding an injury. Once he realised it was not possible, he called it a day. This is a pragmatic chap, as you’d expect, of a winner.

jane Says:

Watching Novak versus Berdych in the semifinal at Cincy, I seriously thought he was going to stop the match, but – & this is kinda funny – Berdych beat him to it after Nole won the first set. They both had shoulder problems/similar injuries. Berdych went on to retire versus Tipsy at the USO too. At Cincy Nole was visibly hampered in the harder fought Monfils match, which probably just exacerbated things. I kind of wish he would’ve finished the final with Murray, but then the rains came and he probably just decided not to risk it or wait until it was stopped. As for DC, I assume it was a continuation injury/stressor – between the shoulder & back are the intercostal muscles, all strained due to wear-and-tear on serve/forehand arm. Rest is the answer.

I wish he wasn’t playing/hope he doesn’t play the Aisan swing, but mat4 previously pointed out valid reasons why he may feel pressured to play(defending champion, sponsor/ Tacchini locale, etc).

Kimberly Says:

grendel—-its a slippery slope though, people pay to see tennis. what if you are just feeling tired, having a bad serving day etc, can’t find the court. Should players be able to call it quits if they simply realize they can’t win? Imagine if Roddick retired against Rafa in set 2 of USO? Or Monaco retired against Fed. Or Berloq retired against Novak. Clearly the writing was on the wall in these matches way before they were finished?

We make a big deal of Novak’s retirements but there were a ton or retirements in the USO and I don’t even remember half of them. So its quite common. Is it quitting or self preservation or inability due to pain? As someone posted earlier, Delpo retires the most and no one really crawls all over him, in fact people seem sympathetic.

I don’t like retirements and walkovers. And my fav has done them too. This is one place I give credit to Federer. Very few if any that I can think of. Either he doesn’t get injured or guts it out.

Here Is Video Of Novak Djokovic’s Monday Visit To A Serbian Pre-School Says:

[…] Djokovic is keeping busy off the court. On Tuesday the World No. 1 participated in a charity football match in support of mothers and their […]

Lie To Me Says:

I do appreciate what Djokovic did for a good cause, charities and so on. But I sometimes doubt his integrity. Citing injuries for retiring is understandable. But acting and showing excessive excruciating pains when actually they’re not is a deceptive and unsportsmanship behavior. I agree with @ Mourinho posted above. Besides, I don’t think he was really injured in the match against Murray in Cincy and during US Open either.

Humble Rafa Says:

Lie to me

I cannot agree with you more. Cheating liars bring bad name to people like me, who are really injured…all the time.

We need to get rid of the cheaters.

grendel Says:

If delPo does attract more sympathy than Djokovic, I would guess it is because people instinctively recognize Djokovic is here to stay, whilst there is real concern that delPo may not be – or, at any rate, may never regain his form of a couple of years ago.

Kimberly Says:

retirements are weak, my thought is if you can finish a match, you finish it. Only reason not to would be reasonable fear of long term injury or unbearable pain.

Never forgiven Justine Henin for the weak weak weak lowdown retirement against Maueresmo denying her Amelie her moment. And I didn’t like either player but thats just not right.

And I get what you are saying about Delpo, it just seems like a few players are called out really hard on the retirements while others receive sympathy.

There are some understandable instances: Venus got an injury in her second round AO, played through it. Her next match she retired after 1 or 2 games. She had the hope that the adrenaline would kick in and she would be ok, but clearly she was not and was able to see it right away. Different then being able to play but not well enough to win, and then retiring.

Take Raonic. He was playing some match against Verdasco (forgot where), lost the first set, then retired. Clearly, had he won he would not have retired but was not willing to go three. Weak. And people seem sympathetic to him. Totally weak.

jane Says:

^ I’ll bet Verdasco didn’t mind since Raonic had beaten him back-to-back at San Jose and in Memphis ;)

dari Says:

delpo has managed somehow to steal a lot of hearts and gets a pass on quite a few things.
Raonic isn’t really successful enough for anybody to care what he does in the negative sense. You have to earn the right to be so scrutinized, he’s not a good example of retirement sympathy.
Rafa did well to get through that match this year at AO with Ferrer, and then openly talked about how he didn’t want to be the “injury guy” anymore (memorable and honest moment, which rafa has racked up a few this year) and I think that was a step for him in the right direction. Most complaints for him these days are MTO’s.
I don’t hear much about Murray retiring, he will limp and wince and curse, but he will finish.
I think the 0-3 down in the set that determines you lose is particularly lame- play three more games or get carried off the court.

Kimmi Says:

I agree with you dari. nole history of retiring does not make things easier when more retirements are happening. He is world number one now. He might have a genuine injury but people will find it hard to believe him anymore.

WTF Says:

skeezerweezer Says:

“Not worth the risk? Since when is charity measured that way if it is truly from the heart?”

It’s 8000 dollars. He could have just paid it out of his pocket. What if his back gets worse and he has to be out for the rest of the season, missing out on hundreds of thousands more? And if he donated some of THAT money instead of the 8k, wouldn’t it have made an even bigger difference?

Is your back worth more than 8k?

margot Says:

dari: “he will limp and wince and curse” brilliant, as I read I could just visualise darling Andy doing just that :)
Wrist injury made him withdraw and alas he was out for many crucial months :(

Swiss Maestro Says:

In about 1000 career matches federer NEVER retired. He gave one walkover [withdraw from the tournament before the match].

How many MTO’s has Roger taken? I remember one against murray in 2008 shanghai YEC/WTF. anyone remember any more?

As for Delpo, has he retired in a GS semi-final or a Masters final? no one cares a fcuk if Novak retires in the 2nd round or 3rd round. Semi-finals/finals are marquee matches with players in the lime-light. In this aspect djokovic has done too many mistakes. The price he pays for this is the general suspicion that people have regarding his retirements. Except for his blind fans, most tennis fans can see this. Anyone who thought that back injury that djokovic enacted in belgrade was career-ending was an idiot. As are all those people who really believed Djokovic’s histrionics that day. This guy is going to be playing for sure in beijing/shanghai.

Novak has always been a clown. There is a difference between people laughing at your act and people laughing at you. I don’t think djokovic realises the difference between the 2.

Nevertheless, his contribution to the charity deserves praise irrespective of his on-court charades. It is great that tennis stars do some charity work. It is better to do something, however little than criticising whatever other people do.

Wog boy Says:

Novak is not playing Beijing.

dari Says:

haven’t watched tennis since USO, decided to tune in to a little Murray. guess there is no reason why he shouldn’t pick up this thailand 250, good for him. playing well and looking sleek in all black.
Wog boy- you had some retirement numbers for some of the repeat offenders, do you have a # for andy?
margot-do you remember to whom he retired with the wrist injury, or just withdraw?
the image is nothing but true, no?
love that poor kid. geeze, get a slam, please

Djokovic Officially Pulls Out Of Beijing; Sharapova Injures Ankle In Tokyo Says:

[…] course just days ago we saw Novak in good health while playing soccer in the name of charity, so it will leave some to question the extent of the […]

margot Says:

dari: Hamburg, May 2007 against Volandri. Andy was winning hands down, then did his wrist in. Screamed, got trainer on, played a couple more points, retired. It was horrible :(
Seem to remember he got injury after injury that year. Obviously much fitter now.
Did you read Grendel’s take on why he can’t beat Rafa in a slam? Thought it was most interesting, but depressing :(

dari Says:

I didnt think he had zero retirement, but couldn’t think of one, that’s still four years ago, not bad.
I put a link up for a long interview with Andy at Thai open on novak/ sharapova thread. I enjoyed it
And I don’t think I will read that post. I enjoy grendel posts but dont have interest in hearing that Andy can’t beat nadal!

alison hodge Says:

i must admit i do find it all rather strange,dont get me wrong i realise the charity match is all for a good cause,but im sure there will be other opotunities to play charity matches,an injury is an injury whichever way you look at it,why risk any furthur damage.

Wog boy Says:

Dari, sorry I was already in bed ( Sydney time) when you asked me about Murray, but I would not be of any help anyway. I just posted it to show that there is no saints.
I like Andy and hope he is going to win GS and even if that is against Novak-Nole-Nolito I am not going to be so sorry. Everything is in his head, the moment he sorts that out he is going to win, he is great tennis player and very good man. That is good enugh for me to cheer for him……when he doesan’ t play Novak. Sorry if there is spelling mistakes I dont know how to do it on my phone.

madmax Says:

It is good news that novak is not seriously injured but I must admit I am surprised to see him running so freely around a football pitch. He looked in terrible pain, was crying and almost inconsolable when Serbia lost the Davis cup. It looked like a very serious injury to me.

Whilst it’s great that he is doing charity work, I think he should not risk anything. There is plenty of time to do charity work in the off season.

grendel Says:

perhaps, madmax, his crying was emotional in origin. Winning the davis cup was really the start of his annus morabilis – so losing it might entail a special pain.

jane Says:

Novak said after he had his back checked that the injury was “not as serious as they had though” but that it would require downtime. So even then he said it was not as bad as he’d thought. But back pain can be exacerbated by stress, as grendel, i think correctly, points out. Nole had been home in Serbia what, maybe 48 hours, after winning the USO, doing media responsibilities. Likely he hadn’t even had a minute to absorb that, then fly home, jetlag, tired, back still hurting from playing with it throughout the USO, then he faces a “top five” level player in front of 20000 hometown fans with high expectations given their win last year. HE SHOULD NOT HAVE PLAYED. That’s my view. It was a dumb decision by the team. But I can also see why they felt pressured and why Nole probably felt he should play. It all added up to too much.

I reiterate, I believe Nole does have a partial tear. He has had injurt issues since Cincy – probably should have skipped THAT event. His serve looks like it could cause injury, frankly (in fact, end 2009 was when he started altering his serve with Martin because of shoulder issues).

AT LEAST, while he perhaps shouldn’t have played Cincy and that DC match, he and his team have made the right decision to skip China and hopefully/possibly Shanghai.

Perhaps after all the fuss he shouldn’t have helped raise money for incubators – bad boy Nole. ???? But he says above in his statement that he felt okay running; only when he tried to serve and hit balls did it hurt his rib muscle tear. Why can’t people get that? I don’t know. I can do all sorts of movements that don’t hurt my neck, but certain ones do. Seems logical, really.

CM Says:

What injury??

madmax Says:

grendel Says:
perhaps, madmax, his crying was emotional in origin. Winning the davis cup was really the start of his annus morabilis – so losing it might entail a special pain.

September 30th, 2011 at 11:08 am

grendel, I hear what you are saying, but that initial ‘crunch’ scene on TV, was surely evident of something having gone wrong physically. It really was a scary moment when I watched that. The crying, surely would come afterwards?

Top story: With 72 Players Now In Full Quarantine, Djokovic Wants Fewer Restrictions