Novak Djokovic was tested physically again at the Australian Open on Saturday, but he managed to keep his bid for a record-extending 10th victory at Melbourne Park alive.
Djokovic appeared to be in pain during his match against Grigor Dimitrov, as he battled the hamstring ailment that has troubled him since Adelaide. The Serbian, on the other hand, dug deep and defeated the 27th seed 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4 to go to the fourth round.
“Every point and game was important,” Djokovic remarked. “The turning moment for both players came immediately away. It was critical to take a rest as soon as possible. I had no idea how I would feel physically. I was walking up and down the stairs. I have a lot of admiration and respect for Grigor. On Tour, he is one of my closest pals. We have a long history together. He’s one of the most gifted players you’ll ever witness. He’s a fantastic athlete.”
The former World No. 1 fought back to win the first set, saving three set opportunities before converting his fifth set point with a diving forehand volley. After winning the set, the 35-year-old struggled to his feet and was given a medical break, with coach Goran Ivanisevic looking on, alarmed.
Despite his hamstring concerns, Djokovic stayed composed and focused on the job at hand, playing with consistency to win the second and third sets. At 4-1 in the third set, the fourth seed, who hit 28 winners and made 22 unforced errors, had a second medical timeout. However, Djokovic returned on the court and completed the job, winning a series of grueling rallies in his last service game to win. Djokovic’s next opponent will be Australian Alex de Minaur.
“I thought a double break in the third would enough, but he was locked in. I didn’t know if I was going to win until the very last shot “According to Djokovic. “It was a thrilling battle. Three hours and three sets. Let’s get some rest and get ready for the next one.”
Following his three-hour, seven-minute victory, Djokovic currently leads Dimitrov in their ATP Head2Head series 10-1. This fortnight, the 35-year-old is aiming a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam championship and would retake No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings if he wins.
He won his 92nd tour-level title earlier last month at an ATP 250 tournament in Adelaide. The Serbian is undefeated this season. Dimitrov was attempting to reach the fourth round for the sixth time in Melbourne. The 31-year-best old’s finish at the hard-court major was a semi-final appearance in 2017.