Following an action-packed opening week, the Australian Open reveals Djokovic into the fourth round for the 15th time despite injury. And for the first time since 2004, four American men advance, as well, at Melbourne Park.
On Saturday, en route to the fourth round of the Australian Open, these players headlined the action in Melbourne.
Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic continues his quest for a record-extending 10th title at the major by outlasting 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets after three hours and seven minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
The fourth seed, who entered the tournament with a hamstring injury sustained at the Adelaide International 1, once and again struggled during his third-round encounter against the in-form Bulgarian player, Dimitrov.
After a physically demanding first-set tiebreak, which he took 7-6(7), Djokovic requested a medical timeout for the physio to treat his upper left leg.
However, when play resumed, setting off the second set, the Serbian, who as well as in his previous match, had a sported strapping to the hamstring, was back into business, persevering to close out 6-3 and 6-4, completing a three-set victory over his opponent.
During his on-court interview, he asserted: “The turning point for both players was right from the start, the very first game. An early break was important for me. I didn’t know how I was going to feel physically. I was going up and down.”
“It was an incredible battle, three sets, over three hours. Let’s rest up and prepare for the next one.”
Djokovic held his nerve and managed to see through into the second week of the first slam of the season, winning 74 percent on his first serve, while the World No. 28 won just 68 percent on his.
Furthermore, he finished with 28 winners to 22 unforced errors compared to Dimitrov’s 53 winners but 50 unforced errors.
The last Australian man standing, 23, and the 21-time Grand Slam champion, 35, have never faced one another on Tour.
Asked about his next adversary, Djokovic said: “He’s one of the quickest players on Tour, probably the quickest.”
“He has improved a lot. He has Lleyton [Hewitt] in his corner. That’s a great team.”
Addressing the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, he added: “Playing in front of you guys, I don’t know how many of you will be on my side. I don’t think too many but let’s see, [laughs]. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, I’m sure.”
The World No. 5 kicked off his campaign in Melbourne, overcoming Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
On Thursday, contesting his second-round matchup, the 92-time ATP titlist was tested by French qualifier Enzo Couacaud.
Djokovic dropped a second-set tiebreak on his way to a 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-0 win over the 27-year-old. Thus far, it is the lone set he has lost across his campaign for the 2023 title.
Moreover, he needed to call for a medical timeout to treat his injury for the first time in the event, showing visible signs of pain.
“Sometimes the situations don’t go your way, but that is sport. I have been in these situations before many times in my life and career. That also helps, the experience of understanding what you need to do in the moment to give your best,” he stated after the scare.
On a further note, four American men are in the Australian Open fourth round for the first time since 2004. And none of them have been in the Round of 16 at the major before.
On Sunday, he will play countryman J.J. Wolf, who has reached the Round of 16 at a major for the first time in his career.
Despite the loss, the Scot leaves the competition under a run of applause as he continues to make tennis history at age 35.
“Lots of mixed emotions. I feel like I gave everything that I had to this event. So I’m proud of that,” Murray outlined.
On Friday, he produced a memorable comeback going five over local player Thanasi Kokkinakis in five hours and 45 minutes, the longest match he has played in his illustrious professional career.