Novak Djokovic survived a major scare at the Australian Open at the end of a remarkable day as an injury and Taylor Fritz threatened to halt the eight-time champion’s progress, although he admitted he may not be able to play his fourth-round tie.
Djokovic, the world No. 1 from Serbia, required treatment on his right abdominal area when he was two sets to love up on American 27th seed Fritz.
In remarkable scenes on the Rod Laver Arena, fans were booted out of the stadium in the back end of the fourth set in order to abide by the Victoria lockdown that was incoming at midnight.
A 10-minute delay didn’t halt Fritz – who played a fine match – in his tracks initially as he wrapped up the fourth set, however, Djokovic hung in and won the fifth.
Seventeen-time major winner Djokovic, who was the heavy favourite to win this tournament, will now have a day to recover as he prepares for a fourth-round tie with Milos Raonic.
Djokovic said: ‘I want to congratulate Taylor for a great fight. I just tried to stay in there and I was hopeful that whatever is happening there is going to feel better.
‘Towards the end of the fourth it started to feel better. In the third and fourth, I just served and couldn’t do much on the return. I was going for my shots, hitting two first serves and it worked.
‘This is definitely one of the most special wins in my life. It doesn’t matter what round it is or against who it is. These kind of circumstances are very difficult to come through. It’s something I’ll remember forever.’
On his chances of beating Milos Raonic in the next round, Djokovic added: ‘I really don’t know.
‘Right now I know it’s a tear of the muscle. I don’t think I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don’t know if I’m going to step out on the court or not. I am just very proud of this achievement.’
With Rafael Nadal also struggling with a back injury, this could be a glorious opportunity for the rest of the field.
Dominic Thiem, the world No. 3 from Austria, survived a major scare when he fought back from two sets down to defeat Nick Kyrgios earlier on Friday and will be the favourite to reach the final in Djokovic’s half of the draw, should the Serb’s injury woes continue.
US Open finalist Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov are also in the mix to reach the final, along with former Wimbledon runner-up Raonic – the big-serving Canadian – who is Djokovic’s next opponent.
The winner may well come from the other half of the draw, however.
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev was widely considered to be the second-favourite prior to the tournament. The world No. 4, a former US Open finalist, is on a 16-match win streak.
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