Currently ranked World no. 1 by ATP, Novak Djokovic is through to the Australian Open last 16 for the 14th time, remaining on the ninth Melbourne crown course. Still, things don’t look great for the 17-times Major champion after he suffered a torn muscle against Taylor Fritz on Friday, beating the American tennis professional but not knowing whether he will be able to compete against Milos Raonic on Sunday.
Novak defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 in three hours and 25 minutes, overcoming both the rival and an injury to avoid an upset at the empty yet historic, Rod Laver Arena. Taylor gave his best to stay in touch with the world’s leading player in the opening two sets, overcoming a 5-2 deficit in the first set and suffering one break of serve in the second.
Novak won both to move closer to the finish line before an injury frightened his entire campaign at the beginning of the third. The Serbian tennis star slid over the Melbourne sign paint and torn muscle, feeling pain and struggling to generate power from his strokes.
Taylor took charge and won sets three and four to force a decider, hoping for another good performance and the most significant victory of his career. Instead of that, Novak recovered his shots since the fourth set’s early stages, with the painkillers starting to work.
Fritz couldn’t matched Novak’s pace and missed a massive opportunity to dethrone Djokovic, failing to impose his shots and losing his feet in the decider.
Novak didn’t train on Saturday, and we will have to wait until Sunday night to see if he would recover enough to take up the Raonic challenge.
“I want to congratulate Taylor on a great fight; I’m sorry that he lost the match this way. I just tried to stay in there, hoping that whatever was happening there would feel better, and it did occur in the fourth set. I couldn’t do much on the return, and I just went for my shots and big serves, and it worked. It’s one of the most special wins of my career, regardless of the round and the opponent. I will remember it forever. It’s a shame that the crowd couldn’t stay with us until the end because of the lockdown; they enjoyed the match. I had to forget about that and stay focus on my game and injury, praying it would get better and that I would have a chance to win. Fortunately, it happened. I can’t say anything about the next match. I know it’s a torn muscle, and I’m not sure I can recover in less than two days. I don’t know if I’m going to step out on the court or not, but I’m very proud of this achievement tonight, and now we have to see how things stand tomorrow,” Novak Djokovic said.
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