Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic reached the round four of the Australian Open on Saturday as he defeated Grigor Dimitov 7-6(7) 6-3 6-4.
Djokovic who was granted Australian visa after the initial issues over coronavirus protocols overcame a hamstring complaint that threatens to derail his hjnt for a 10th title in the tournament and 22nd Grand Slam.
Djokovic felt discomfort in his thigh following a difficult opening set and despite coming through the next set rather comfortably, he groaned in pains in the third set.
“I didn’t know how I was going to feel physically, I was kind of going up and down,” said Djokovic, who staved off a late comeback attempt by Dimitrov to prevail and is now the only remaining Grand Slam champion in a depleted men’s draw.
“I thought the double break in the third was going to be enough for me, but he was locked in from that moment and up to the last shot I did not know if I was going to prevail or not. It was an incredible battle — three sets over three hours.”
Dimitov made a late surge to salvage what was left of the encounter – the 11th meeting by both men – however Djokovic showed his class as he prepares to take on 23-year-old Alex de Minaur.
When asked about younger rivals fourth seed, Djokovic in his news conference after the game said: “What do you mean the young ones? Thirty five is the new 25, you know? Look at Rafa (Nadal), look at Andy Murray they’re all playing at an extremely high level.”
Meanwhile, Murray’s run ended against Roberto Bautista Agut, the 24th-seeded Spaniard fending off the former world number one 6-1 6-7(7) 6-3 6-4.
“My feet didn’t feel great. My legs were actually OK … but I was struggling with my lower back,” the 35-year-old Murray, who came through a five-set epic against Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis I the previous round, told reporters.
“That was affecting my serve and that was really the main thing today.”
Australian De Minaur was out of Nick Kyrgios’s shadow and ensured home fans will have someone to cheer in the second week as he steamrollered Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(0) 6-2 6-1 in front of a heaving centre court crowd.