Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic
AFP

Melbourne: World No 1 Novak Djokovic stormed into Round of 16 after a fighting five-set win over Taylor Fritz.

Djokovic started fluently and stormed ahead to take a two-set lead and it looked like it was just a matter of time before he would wrap it up. But then he was bothered by an injury to his ribs.

The Serbian then seemed to be struggling in long rallies and his opponent took advantage of that and clawed back into the match to win the next two sets.

What added to the drama was the fact that midway through the games, the stands had to be emptied as the Covid-19 lockdown in Melbourne kicked in after midnight.

An announcement was made over the tannoy to inform all supporters that they had to leave the arena. A message also flashed up on the big screen.

An announcement was made over the tannoy to inform all supporters that they had to leave the arena. A message also flashed up on the big screen.

That was not taken well as those who had paid to watch the headliner and they booed the announcement. Not all of the fans obeyed the instruction so the umpire took the players off court at 3-2 in the fourth set.

Once the fans vacated the Rod Laver Arena, the match resumed and Djokovic regained some strength and went on to win the game 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2.

"This is definitely one of the more special wins of my life. It doesn't matter what round it is, the circumstances to pull this win through is definitely something I'll remember forever,” Djokovic said after the win.

Serena Williams using that bit of magic Friday to help pull off a comeback victory over an opponent who is 20 years younger, the head of the Victoria state government was announcing a five-day lockdown in response to a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantine hotel.

"It's going to be a rough few days for, I think, everyone. But we'll hopefully get through it," Williams said after beating 19-year-old Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (5), 6-2 despite 25 unforced errors in the first set alone.

Williams now plays seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who matched her best Grand Slam showing by reaching the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Ann Li.

"It's always, I think, a big challenge to play against these kind of players. But I'm going to do everything I can to get this win," Sabalenka said.

"We're all here for the wins."

She's been accumulating them at quite a pace going back to the end of last season: Sabalenka has won 18 of her past 19 matches.

Other women's fourth-round matchups established Friday: three-time Grand Slam title winner Naomi Osaka against two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza, 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova against Hsieh Su-wei, and two-time major champ Simona Halep against either reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek or Fiona Ferro.

No. 8 Diego Schwartzman became the highest-seeded man to lose so far, eliminated 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 by Aslan Karatsev, a qualifier from Russia ranked 114th and making his Grand Slam debut at age 27.

No. 3 Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open in September, appeared to be in real trouble against Australia's Nick Kyrgios in front of a raucous crowd, but came all the way back from a two-set deficit to win 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Thiem's fourth-round opponent is No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov, who advanced when Pablo Carreno Busta retired after losing the first seven games.

Karatsev is the first qualifier to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park since Milos Raonic a decade ago and will meet No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who defeated No. 11 Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 in an all-Canadian matchup.

Djokovic's AO's campaign not sure

Melbourne: Novak Djokovic said he tore a muscle during a fall in his five-set victory in the Australian Open's third round and might need to pull out of the tournament. His opponent, American Taylor Fritz, wasn't so sure. He figured Djokovic definitely will be back out there Sunday to continue his pursuit of a ninth championship at Melbourne Park and 18th Grand Slam title overall. "If he can play like he played in the fifth, I don't see why he wouldn't play," Fritz said. "He'll beat pretty much anyone." The No. 1-ranked Djokovic seemed to be cruising along with a two-set lead Friday night when his left foot gave out from under him as he tried to change directions and he slipped awkwardly on the white "MELBOURNE" lettering at the back of the blue court. During an on-court interview, he was subdued. And pessimistic. "I know it's a tear, definitely, of the muscle. So I don't know if I'll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if I'm going to step out onto the court or not," said Djokovic, who is supposed to face 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic with a quarterfinal berth on the line.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal

www.freepressjournal.in