Novak Djokovic Says His Elbow Still Isn’t 100%, Won’t Discuss Details Of Injury
by Tom Gainey | January 13th, 2018, 7:06 pm

Meeting the press Saturday in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic revealed that his injured elbow still wasn’t healed. And the 6-time champion didn’t rule out surgery down the road. He also wouldn’t discuss what exactly the problem was with the elbow, only that it’s been a hindrance for a while now.

Djokovic, who hasn’t played an official match since a shock Wimbledon quarterfinal loss to Tomas Berdych, is set to return in best-of-5 match Tuesday against American lefty Donald Young.

After the presser, Djokovic handed out chocolates.

Q. Could you tell us about your new serve, new serving action, and how long it took to get used to it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Happy New Year to you, too (smiling). Great to see you all, first of all. It’s been a while. Haven’t had this long of a break ever in my career. I’m just glad to be back playing tennis, having an opportunity to compete yet again in the big tournaments.

I’ve missed it. At the same time, I had plenty of time to spend with my family, and also take a different look on my game, you know, my body, just an overall strategy on how I want to move forward.

I’ve introduced new people to my team. Obviously the service motion is something that we worked on, referring to your question. It was obviously the part of my game that I had to address because of the elbow issues. I’ve worked on it for last couple months with Radek and Andre. Andre came over, spent a week with the entire team.

Ever since Radek decided to join the team, he was with me more or less the entire time, trying to spend as much quality time on the court as much as we can.

Obviously the beginning, even though the service motion comparing to the old ones, it’s not entirely different, but at the beginning even those small tweaks and changes have made a lot of difference mentally. I needed time to kind of get used to that change, understand whether that’s good or not good for me.

So far it’s been working really well. I had only Kooyong match where I could really try it out. I had a lot of practice sets. I’m happy with the new motion, you know, new service motion. I don’t want to say ‘new serve’, but new service motion.

Some corrections, I guess, some improvements to the technique, which I think are allowing me to be more efficient with the serve, but also allowing me to release the load from the elbow, which is, you know, obviously something that I have to do because I have that injury.

Q. In the early ’90s, Andre hurt his wrist and abbreviated his service motion for a while.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We’ve talked about it. He was mentioning his own experiences. Well, both Radek and Andre have discussed a lot before the information came across to me. They spent a lot of hours analyzing my serve. I did, too. We talked about it.

But, of course, they wanted to make sure that the information that comes to me on the court, that is the proper information that should be, so to say, I guess used to go forward, to see whether it works or not.

As I said, you know, not to get into technical details, but there are three, four details, things, that I’ve changed with my rotation, the elbow up, which is the most obvious one. I feel like I spend less energy but I’m more efficient. I’m really looking forward to try out my new serve here.

Q. On your elbow, when did you have your surgery? What was the nature?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I didn’t have any surgery, no. No surgery. I just had to, you know, take time to rest. It was that kind of an injury.

Q. How hard was it to take that time off? You usually have a pretty planned-out schedule. Was it like, What do I do now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, this particular injury has been bothering me for a while. Actually it was an accumulation of I think year, year and a half of dealing with this kind of injury. Accumulation came in July last year in Wimbledon. I couldn’t play any more. Before that it was, say, bearable pain that I could kind of sustain and try to play with.

So I knew eventually down the road somewhere I will have to stop and have a longer break. How long, I didn’t know. I’ve never missed a Grand Slam ever since I started playing professional tennis. I’ve never been absent from the tour more than a month. So I’ve been pretty happy with the way — with, of course, the team around me, the way I’ve taken care of my body in the last 12 years.

It was strange feeling for me, I mean, obviously, not to be able to compete for six months. But the good thing about it is when it actually happened and when we made that decision, of course, in consultations with doctors, it was quite clear, you know, what is going on. The next six months, I won’t play, regardless of how fast or slow the recovery goes.

I already had my mind calm because I knew I don’t need to rush to get myself ready for the end of the season. I was already thinking about the next season.

Then I had time, of course, and a huge relief, as well. I was thinking about whether I can stop or not. You know, dealing with the pain is something that is part of every athlete’s, I guess, responsibility. It’s part of your job, part of your life. You’ve got to deal with it. Everybody goes through some level of pain daily more or less. This was quite a major injury.

Yet again, I was discreetly in the last couple years wishing I had a little bit more time to spend with my family, and I got it July last year. As an athlete, of course, you never like to experience an injury of that sort. It allowed me to me to be with my family, to be next to my wife when she was giving birth to our second child, and to also address some other things that are always on the standby because of tennis, and just enjoy life. There is a life outside of tennis tour, as well. So I was happy to kind of refresh my mind.

As I said, I missed it, so I can’t wait to compete.

Q. Through the years, you are used to being hunted, now you are in the role of the hunter. Is it going to change anything when you get back on the court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: In some way, yes, because I haven’t been playing on the desired level. Even the first part of last year, I did struggle a lot with the performance, as well, the injury that was holding me back. Of course, the next part of the year I didn’t play. The ranking dropped obviously.

I still know what I’m capable of, and I believe in my own abilities to win against the best players in the world. I know that if I get myself to desired level of performance – mental and physical – that I can actually have a good chance to go far in the tournament.

Now, whether my approach is different to this year’s Australian Open to other previous years, probably yes. It’s different circumstances. But it is exciting. Honestly, it’s a good place to be.

Q. What happened a couple weeks ago when you were forced to withdraw from Abu Dhabi and Doha?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the elbow was just not ready yet to compete day-to-day, you know, playing matches back-to-back. It was not yet prepared, so I had to take that decision. Even though ideally it would probably be great to have a leadup event after six months of not playing matches, coming into the Australian Open. But I’m just happy that I’m here at the moment, that I have a chance to play.

Because I didn’t know, honestly, until around that period, midway and first week of the season, I didn’t know whether I’m going to be able to play in Australian Open or not.

Q. What has changed? Why are you sure that you are ready now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, after long and very thorough consultations with my team and doctors, orthopaedic specialists, we have made a decision that it is fine and adequate for me to play here.

Right now that’s all I’m thinking about.

Q. You’re saying you are still managing the injury. You aren’t completely healed yet?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I can say that. It hasn’t been 100% yet healed. But right now it’s at the level where I can compete, and every day is getting better. You know, I’m hoping that it can be 100% at the start of the tournament. Throughout the tournament, I don’t know how it’s going to behave. Even if it’s 100% healed, after six months of no competition, you never know how you’re going to react.

So let’s see. There’s not much more I can do. I’ve done really everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to enable me to be right here in front of you guys, and to compete in Australian Open.

Q. Was the pain most serious when you served?

Q. Did you feel it in other shots, too?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Just serving. Serving is the most critical shot for me, yeah.

Q. Did you need an injection or anything to be here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not going to get into the details. There was a lot of things that were on the table, that we’ve done, things that we haven’t done. To take you through the whole process, we need quite a bit of time.

I’m here. I’m going to play. Hopefully everything goes well.

Q. Are you happy you’re not going to cause yourself any further damage by playing best-of-five set matches?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s a good question. That was my question to the specialists before, you know, I made my decision to come here to Australia and to play, was whether or not I’m going to do any further damage or harm.

I was convinced that’s not the case, so…

Q. At any point was there a suggestion you might need surgery, that surgery was an option?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There are some other options, long-term options, that I will obviously revisit and address post-tournament. Right now I should focus on this.

Q. Could you tell us what the injury is?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m sorry, I can’t get into details. It’s just that I hope you understand.

Q. You said in a recent interview, you might play till you’re 40.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ll tell you more about it after the tournament (laughter).

Well, obviously I love this sport, I really do. As I said, I’ve been quite content with my body, mind, spirit so far throughout my career. The fire, passion, and love for the sport still burns inside. I have great support from my family and close ones and people around the world.

I do feel young inside, you know. Even though by some people’s opinions, you know, when you cross the 30, you’re not young any more, you’re already getting into your last third or maybe last quarter of your career.

I mean, Roger and Rafa’s year last year has shown age is just a number, especially in Roger’s case. I mean, he’s a great example of someone that manages to take care of himself, knows how to prepare well and peak at the right time. He won couple Grand Slams. Who would predict that after his six months of absence, so…

Everything is possible really. I don’t know how my body’s going to behave this year or any other year. Right now all I can think about, and where I can sort of say direct my energy, is in the present moment. So far everything is going in the right direction.

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33 Comments for Novak Djokovic Says His Elbow Still Isn’t 100%, Won’t Discuss Details Of Injury

skeezer Says:

“Q. Did you need an injection or anything to be here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not going to get into the details.”
Yep, don’t share whats in that injection or magic potions, lol.
Don’t like this interview. Either he is beng coy or he really should not be playing. Why play when you are not fully healed? Big risk dude. Otherwise he is just sounding like he is just setting up for THE excuse if he loses.

Willow Says:

A Week ago he was saying for now im playing in the “AO”, just doesnt sound like hes confident about his chances, it all sounds a bit sketchy, wish him the best anyway ….

Willow Says:

Nice picture of Novak by the way ….

Chris Ford Says:

1. Whether Novak can come back or not this year is something all fans of all players are interested in. This is the guy that was the best player in tennis for six years (2011-16) before injury. He doesn’t, room is created for not only Fed’s trophy room but Sasha, Nick, etc. following in the heels of Grigor and getting big titles.
2. How sad. Bernard Tomic ranked 142 failed to qualify for the AO and ranted at his last presser in Melbourne that he didn’t care and he made more money than any reporter ever could. Next for Tomic is heading to S Africa to be on a game show.
3. All signs continue to point to Novak and Roger not disliking one another near as much as ten years ago. Djokovic has been generous with his praise for Fed’s level of play. Fed actually seems sincere when he discusses Djokovic and his hope Novak will be back to 100%. Fed might even tell the committee that issues the Federer Award to give it to Novak for a change, in 2018. He made a phone call “““““`

Willow Says:

I Think Rafa was the best player in 2013 but whatever ?

Madmax Says:

Chris Ford,

Where have you got this from:

“This is the guy that was the best player in tennis for six years (2011-16) before injury”. Because that is just not the case.

Madmax Says:

and for the record CF, he is genuine.

All signs continue to point to Novak and Roger not disliking one another near as much as ten years ago. Djokovic has been generous with his praise for Fed’s level of play. Fed actually seems sincere when he discusses Djokovic and his hope Novak will be back to 100%.

Unlike you and some others around here. I am not going to list here the massive compliments that Roger has laid on both Novak, Andy and Rafa because it falls on deaf ears for haters like you.

Madmax Says:

We all want Novak and Andy back, fit and well. Tennis will continue, of course it will. But both players are missed by both fans and non- fans alike, if they are a true lover of tennis. Seems that what Novak has gone through has been excruciatiing, having read many reports on his website and I hope he does well at the AO and builds up his confidence once again. It is a pity he can’t say more in his interview, but that is just pride I guess. I have seen him play twice Live, and both times he was amazing on court, such is his athleticism. He should not be under estimated at the AO. He might be sending warning signals out to his opponents as a ruse, but all he can do is his best and let’s hope that no surgery is involved.

Willow Says:

So what if Novak and Federer are not the best of friends, they are in this to win titles, not be best buddies, great respect and polite handshakes is what i prefer in tennis, not namby pamby love and hugs,i like Sharapovas attitude get in and out as soon as possible, im not giving my rivals high fives in the showers its not my thing, i always thought my two favorites Rafa and Andy were way to friendly with Novak, and sometimes i believe it had a negative effect on what happened on court IMO ….

Madmax Says:

Chris Ford,

Don’t worry. Federer doesn’t think he is going to win either and here is what he has said about Rafa and Novak. Not that you are interested, but I am.

“I play down my chances just because I don’t think a 36-year-old should be a favourite of a tournament,” he said.

“It should not be the case. That’s why I see things more relaxed at a later stage of my career,” added the world number two, who is looking to win a 20th Grand Slam title.

“I feel like maybe somebody like a Rafa, with the year that he’s had, and Novak, with the six titles he’s had here, even if it’s unknown how he’s feeling, they could very well be the favourites too.”

skeezer Says:

He was handing out Chocolates. Did Fed give him those? He’s given him plenty swiss chocolates before.

Humble Rafa Says:

I can’t believe the Egg Lover won’t discuss his injury in detail. I am always happy to set up two hours with anyone who would like to know about my injuries.

It’s not like anyone is asking about his wife’s favorite position (you have a fair point, such questions are now to be directed to the Playboy Stepanek, who is deep into you know…)

Chris Ford Says:

Madmax – “Where have you got this from:

“This is the guy that was the best player in tennis for six years (2011-16) before injury”. Because that is just not the case.”

You look at the numbers, and what Djokovic put up 2011 to 2016 was dominant. It’s really quite simple, MadMax. Rafa brilliantly stole #1 in 2013 with his unexpectedly strong US/Canada hardcourt effort and Nole’s famous FO net touch in the semis, but no one was close to what Djokovic achieved in those 6 years.

Willow Says:

Some Novak fans really need to get over that net cord, in that dreadfully overated FO semi in 2013, Rafa shouldve actually won the match in the fourth set, god i really must say i detest that match with a passion ….

Willow Says:

And to be quite honest ive seen better matches, clean matches with no incidents in them ….

Willow Says:

And when push comes to shove Federer and Nadal still have more GS, and it doesnt matter how dominant a player actually is, thats what matters the most ….

Daniel Says:

“but no one was close to what Djokovic achieved in those 6 years.”

Not true, had him being this dominant Federer would not be #1 for a few weeks in 2012 where 4 different players won Grand Slams; Nadal wouldn’t be #1 in 2013 with more Salms than him and Murray wouldn’t steal #1 in last match of 2016, because he was gassed out/injured after RG 2016. He was not consitent enough for the whole 5 years spam. Overal he was the better player, but not dominant beyond doubt.

He was dominant in 2011 and 2015; 2012 he was more consitant, and the other 2 years (2013 and 2016) other players finished #1 on top of him.

Total dominance is what Federer did in 2004-2007 where no one came even close. He won more Slams than everybody in those years. That’s is a complete dominant period, highlited by 237 STRAIGHT weeks as #1, somehting none will never even get close to achieve in our lifetime.

j-kath Says:

Skeezer: I think Nole needs to be allowed to decide how close he thinks he is to being match ready. Not wanting to start a war but I can’t think of any top player who yearns to get back – and may (or may not) be as ready as he/she wants to be.

BBB Says:

These guys play with injuries all the time. If they all waited until they were fully healed to play, there’d be no tournaments. It’s always a judgment call about when to play and when to rest.

skeezer Says:

I get that. they play with nics all the time. But this was a serious injury. Just sayin…..he himself said his elbow is not 100%.
But you are right, his call…..not mine. We’ll see….

Van Persie Says:


do not really agree with your argument.
Steffi Graf has more weeks as Nr. 1 at the moment. Was Steffi Graf hereby more dominant? Serena had many breaks and slammless years, years with only 1 slam…and now look at Steffi Graf on Wikipedia..soo many years with multiple slam wins.
Would you think, Steffi was more dominant than Serena, by using your way of thinking?

Van Persie Says:

^^ just compare the grand slam tournament performance timeline for the 2 above mentioned

Daniel Says:


Serena is a not the norm. Her dominat is basically esclusive to Grand Slams. She is the greates female Grand Slam players with her record.

Graffi in those spams were more dominant than Serene because she was #1 and won multiple Grand Slams. Serena gives the sense of dominance due to her dominating Slams, but she did not domiated other aspects and several other players were #1 in her peirod. Graffi domianted for a longer while than Serena. But overall v=career wise Serena has the longevity and ability to win Slams.

Djoko had 2 domiants years and a slight edge on 2012. That it. 2013 were Nadal and 2016 were almost even with Murray. Djoko had 2 Slams and 4 msters but Murray had 1 Slams, 2 Masters, Olympics, WTF, Year #1 and another 2 Slam finals. So in the end, Murrya years weas better. We cna make the case for Djoko for compleitng the Non Calendar Grand Slam.

Same with Fedal last year. We can’t say Nadal domianted 2017 as CF said if Djoko in 2011-2016. They shared Slams, Fed had more Masters, but overall Nadal had 1 more Slams final and played mooe toruneys, was more consistant throught the seaosn, hence year end #1. But it was not a domiante year, specially as he lost 4 matches to Federer.

Dominant years to me are: Fed 2004-2007, 2009; Nadal 2008, 2010 and 2013; Djoko 2011 and 2015.
The other years no one “dominated”. 2008 slight edge to Nadal, 2012 slight edge to Novak, 2016 slight edge to Murray, 2017 slight edge to Nadal.

So, if you say Djojo was a better player from 2011-2016 I am Ok with it, but dominate he was not unless you consider only 2016 till RG 2016. Because the llater part of 2016 he was not, considering the full 5 years.

Van Persie Says:


Between 2011-2016 Djoko won the most slams and the most masters as far as I know, so, he was kind of dominant by being also most constant in winning, was not like Federer’s 2004-2007(will keep my opinion for myself regarding those years)
But nobody in the history had such great seasons like Nole’s 2011 and 2015 ;) …and we had a great Andy, Rafa , Roger,Stan from 2011-2016, and that’s making Djoko’s “dominance” or constance even sweeter :)

Van Persie Says:

Do not believe in GOAts, by the way

Daniel Says:

“But nobody in the history had such great seasons like Nole’s 2011 and 2015”

Just to nitpick, Federer 2006 and 2007, when Masters finals were played on best of 5, to me it’s better than Djoko’s 2011 because he was gassed out by the end of year, did not won WTF, did not reach RG finals and by the number of matches loss by Fed in those year. 2006 he was 92-5, somehting noen will never replicate, many Masters did not had a bye either.

2015 have the caset to be slight above 2006 as the greatest year, but all those 4 year are not set in stone as you put. It’s not beyond doubt. Djoko fans will say there were better, bring matches agaisnt Nadal. Fed fand will say 2006 is better because of the many points I said already.

We are yet to see a year that is “beyond doubt” the best year in history.

Van Persie Says:


Do not know, perhaps you are right…but Sampras did agree with me at the end of 2011. Perhaps he was also more impressed by the existent competition in 2011, we would have to ask him (Sampras)

Daniel Says:

The thing for me is because Federer was/is more efficient, and this plays a lot.

Yeah, what Djoko did in those 6 finals agaisnt Nadal in 2011 were remarkable, but I always get a sense he could and posses all the tools to win easier. He grinds himself to much, made it look more valiant, when he should be more willing to be more agressive instead of going into those endless baseline points. Several points were excat copy of the other, similar to some Murray matches.

To me this may jeoperdyze his futre and alreayd played some consenquences with his fitness and elbow injury. Look what Federer is doing now, he is hitting the ball even sooner and more close ot the baseline. The match with Bedene was well contested and it latestd less than 90 minutes.

The way Djokom played made his effort seems more valiant in 2011 but looking how Fed beat Nadla last year, one can say Dhojo could blow Nadla off court sooner. Indeed he had some clay matches, and on clay Nadal is the ultimate test in tennis. But even so, My feeling is that we overlook this apsect and the main fault is how he played.

I tend to evaluate all aspects of the game, and as you quote Sampras, he was a master in efficient tennis with the trust he had in his serve. No way he would put himsel in a 6 hours 5 set contest like AO 2012.

Van Persie Says:

WE will not change each other minds anyway, as we are not objective, we are talking about our faves

Van Persie Says:


Fed did an amazing job at the AO last year, but the Rafa from last year was not the Rafa from 2011

Van Persie Says:

^ as the Rafa from 2015 was alos far from the one of 2011, I still tihink 2011 was betetr for Djoko than the 2015, even if he won also the WTF at the end of 2015 and played finals at the French

Daniel Says:

I loved when Djoko was super confident winnign 6-1 sets at will. Maybe he has a Nadal issue in their match up, who hasn’t. He choose to play Nadal on his terms outlasting and breaking his will, but we saw in the past many players go full attack and it rewards them.

Example, Djokos return. He has the tools to hit many more agreesive retunr but he tends to go to the safe nullyfy shot, instead of attacking from the get go. Maybne now with his age and healthy issues he will be forced to be more effective and more agressive, and to me that is when he plays his best.

Van Persie Says:


Without the grinding, he would have not succeed to beat Rafa in 2011. And when you are changing your game, you cannot play one match super efficient with short points and winning the other ones with the grinding. I am not very bothered by the long points , to be honest.
Federer could beat Rafa only when Rafa was slower than in the past, ok, Roger came also with an improved serve and backhand.

I am sure Nole will make also changes in his game, as the age will not allow him to play like in the past. And he has the capability to adapt.

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