Novak Djokovic admits that his push towards a record-setting 23rd Grand Slam title is at the mercy of a “long list” of injuries at the French Open with “pills and angels” amongst the cures.
Djokovic, chasing a third Roland Garros title, reached the fourth round for a 14th successive year on Friday with a bruising 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win over Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
At three hours and 36 minutes it was the longest three-set match of his career.
The gruelling nature of the clash meant the Serb star required a medical timeout between the second and third sets to treat a left thigh strain.
The Court Philippe Chatrier crowd reacted with jeers to which the world number three responded with a thumbs-up and sarcastic round of applause.
“We don’t have much time to start to name the many injuries I have, the list is quite long,” said 36-year-old Djokovic.
“I don’t want to sit here and talk about these things that are not preventing me from playing. I still kept on playing.”
He added: “These are the circumstances that you have to deal with. Sometimes you need help from the physio. Sometimes you need pills. Sometimes you need help from god or angels.”
In January, Djokovic won a 10th Australian Open title despite playing with a three-centimetre tear in his hamstring.
His build-up to the French Open was then hampered by the return of a long-standing elbow problem.
“The reality for me nowadays is that my body is responding differently than it did a few years ago,” added Djokovic.
“I have to adjust to this new reality.”
Djokovic will face Peru’s 94th-ranked Juan Pablo Varillas for a place in the quarter-finals.
Varillas won his third five-setter to reach the last 16 at a Slam for the first time by defeating Polish 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-2.
“I’ll be facing one of the greatest players in history. I will try to win,” said the 27-year-old who is the first Peruvian man to make the fourth round in Paris since Jamie Yzaga in 1994.
“When you enter the court the chances are 50-50, it’s one against one.”