Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic’s brave run to the Australian Open final with an injured leg has been tempered by fresh accusations that he may have broken tournament rules.
Footage has emerged of the Serbian star receiving the mystery drink during his victory from behind over French player Enzo Couacaud in the second round of the Australian Open.
It happened in a match where he dropped the second set and needed a medical time-out for his troublesome hamstring before claiming the win.
His team is seen putting a label on the water bottle before giving it to a tournament official to hand to Djokovic on the pitch.
The former world No. 1 carefully read what was written on the label when he received the bottle.
The footage has raised concerns that Djokovic and his team have breached rules governing when and where players can train during the Open.
Stars are allowed to communicate verbally with their team only when they are on the same side of the field. If they are on opposite sides, signals must be used – which was the case when the footage of Djokovic was taken.
It is the third time in six months that the 21-time Grand Slam winner has caused controversy with his choice of drink at a tennis tournament.
The incident comes after Djokovic suffered a shock defeat to Danish teenager Holger Rune at the Paris Masters in November, after which a video of his physiotherapist mixing a drink for him made headlines.
The physio was filmed preparing a mystery drink in the stands before handing it to a ball boy to pass on to the Serbian champions. Another member of Djokovic’s team used his back to try to obscure what was happening.
A member of Djokovic’s team gives the bottle with the freshly attached label to a tournament official to hand to him during the Australian Open second round
Djokovic took the time to carefully read the label on the bottle, with some suggesting it contained coaching notes from his team.
Before that, the 21-time Grand Slam champion caught the eye for appearing to inhale a substance from a water bottle at the Wimbledon Championships.
When asked what was in the drink bottles, Djokovic only replied: “magic potion”.
Many fans were quick to attack the star player for his repeated use of mystery drinks.
“There’s always a conspiracy when it comes to Djokovic,” one replied to the video.
“He does this all the time and seems to run like the road runner cartoon afterwards,” added another.
Other tennis fans thought the liquid itself wasn’t a problem, but the note attached to the bottle might be.
‘Training notes maybe?’ a fan suggested.
Others said it could be a sponsorship issue.
“A product made by a company that doesn’t sponsor it, so they hide the label,” one fan said.
Others were quick to defend Djokovic from all the untoward, saying no one would be brazen enough to use a banned substance in plain sight.
“Too much attention on a team member mixing sports drinks,” one fan wrote.
“A really ridiculous idea that something is going on, the stadium is full, cameras everywhere, drinks mixed in the players’ box… I mean, use a little logic here, maybe they just don’t want to give the benefit to no one.
The fan holds a banner in support of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during his third round match against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov
Djokovic has been secretive about his ‘magic potion’ bottles in the past and was asked about using mysterious liquids three times in six months
“To add to that, inside a locker room you see a team of players always making drinks, in unmarked bottles and putting them in the fridge. Training programs, taking supplements, etc. are a trade secret.
Another tennis fan pointed out that Djokovic was previously cleared at Wimbledon for drinking a “mysterious” drink that turned out to be isotonic.
“I hope you all had the Wimbledon statement in front of you so you can relax. It’s isotonic, very popular among athletes,” they posted.
“It is in powder form and can be mixed with water or taken dry and sprinkled on afterwards.
Australian Alex de Minaur is the last local remaining in singles and has a big mission ahead of him in Djokovic
“Hard to believe people are so stupid to think an athlete would take a banned substance where thousands of onlookers and cameras can see you.” They are tested regularly before and after games and even when they are not playing.
Another fan posted: “Every athlete has sports drinks, fortified with vitamins and electrolytes with the goal for athletes to replenish glucose, fluids and electrolytes that are lost during strenuous activity.”