Djokovic skips practice; scheduled to play Raonic at night

United States' Jessica Pegula celebrates a point against France's Kristina Mladenovic during their match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic skipped practice at the Australian Open ahead of his fourth-round contest.

With his title defence in doubt because of a side muscle issue, at least he’ll get the maximum possible rest before needing to play: He is scheduled to face 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic in the last match of the night session at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night.

Djokovic showed up at Melbourne Park on Saturday but did not swing a racket.

He planned to have medical tests done to “understand what’s really going on” after hurting himself while losing his footing during his five-set victory over Taylor Fritz in the third round Friday night.

“I just felt a tear. I felt something happen,” Djokovic said after that match, adding: “I have huge pain. I took the highest dose of anti-inflammatories possible.”

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic is trying to win a ninth Australian Open championship and third in a row, which would give him a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles.

Rafael Nada and Roger Federer share the men’s record with 20.

McDONALD’S STYLE

No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev offered quite an assessment of his next opponent, 192nd-ranked Mackenzie McDonald.

First, after running his winning streak to 17 matches Saturday and improving to 1-6 in five-setters, Medvedev called McDonald — who won NCAA singles and doubles titles at UCLA in 2016 — “really tricky.”

And then, a moment later, the 2019 U.S. Open runner-up took it up to a whole other level, describing how McDonald “takes the ball early, playing even, I would say, ‘Roger style.’”

As in: Roger Federer.

When that was relayed to McDonald, the 25-year-old American’s face went from the tiniest hint of a grin to a full-fledged smile.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever gotten,” McDonald said.

He will be playing in the second round-of-16 match of his career Monday against Medvedev. The first came at Wimbledon in 2018, and he reached a career-best ranking of 57th in April 2019. But the next month, McDonald tore his hamstring tendon at the French Open, needed surgery, and went weeks without being able to walk.

“Everything that I went through was a big wakeup,” McDonald said after defeating Lloyd Harris in three sets Saturday. “So I’m really happy to be back here.”

STILL PLAYING

Just because 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, U.S. Open title winners Sloane Stephens and Bianca Andreescu and other women already lost at Melbourne Park this week doesn’t mean they can’t still keep playing at the site.

That’s because a WTA tournament called the Phillip Island Trophy began Saturday there, giving some players a chance to compete some more before leaving Australia.

Among the Day 1 results: Stephens lost to Varvara Gracheva 6-2, 6-2.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Casper Ruud’s 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Radu Albot made him only the second man from Norway to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament. The other? Ruud’s father, Christian, also in Australia, back in 1997.

“He’s my main coach, so it’s also an achievement for him,” said Ruud, who is seeded 24th and meets No. 7 Andrey Rublev next. “Now he has done it himself and as a coach, so I think he’s happy that I’ve been able to, not beat his record yet, but at least do the same as he did.”

And while the 22-year-old Ruud already has won a tour-level title — his father never did — and surpassed Dad’s best ranking, too, the kid entered Saturday 0-3 in third-round matches at major tournaments.

“He kind of liked having that last inch on me, and now he can’t anymore,” the younger Ruud said, “so it’s a good feeling, obviously.”

___

AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Justin Bergman, The Associated Press

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