Novak Djokovic was once again physically pushed at the Australian Open on Saturday, but he found a way to keep his quest for a record-extending 10th title alive at Melbourne Park.
Struggling with the hamstring injury that has plagued him since Adelaide, Djokovic looked uneasy during his duel with Grigor Dimitrov. However, the Serb dug deep and overcame the 27th seed 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4 to reach the fourth round.
“Every point and every game mattered,” said Djokovic. “The turning point for both players was right from the start. An early breakaway was important. I didn’t know how I would feel physically. I was up and down. Grigor is someone I really admire and respect. He is one of my best friends on the Tour. We go back a long time. He’s one of the most talented players you’ll see. He’s such a great athlete.”
In a close battle, the former world No. 1 attempted to win the first set, saving three set points before converting his fifth set point with a diving forehand volley. After winning the set, the 35-year-old got to his feet and was given a medical time-out as coach Goran Ivanisevic looked on with concern.
Despite his hamstring concerns, Djokovic remained calm and stuck to his job on court, playing consistently to seal the second and third sets. The fourth seed, who hit 28 winners and committed 22 unforced errors, was given a second medical timeout at 4–1 in the third set. However, Djokovic returned to court where he was able to finish the job and win a series of grueling rallies in his final service game to prevail. Djokovic next plays Australian Alex de Minaur.
“I thought a double break in the third inning would be enough, but it was stuck. Until the very last shot I didn’t know if I would win,” said Djokovic. “It was an incredible fight. Three sets, over three hours. Let’s rest and prepare for the next one.”
Djokovic now leads Dimitrov 10-1 in their ATP Head2Head series after his three hour seven minute win. The 35-year-old is chasing a record-breaking 22nd Grand Slam trophy this two weeks and will reclaim the number 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP rankings if he takes the title.
Earlier this month, he won his 92nd tour-level crown at an ATP 250 event in Adelaide. The Serbian has an 8-0 record this season. Dimitrov was aiming to reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the seventh time. The 31-year-old’s best finish on the hard-court major came in 2017, when he advanced to the semifinals.