MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Top seed Novak Djokovic survived a major injury scare as he battled past American Taylor Fritz 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday.
The eight-time champion looked in serious trouble when an injury sustained to his right side after a slip at 1-1 in the third set, having built a two-set lead, left him grimacing in pain and requiring treatment off the court.
Fritz, the 27th seed, took the third set and was leading in the fourth when the match had another strange twist as play was halted while the crowd were removed in line with a new five-day COVID-19 lockdown starting at midnight in Melbourne.
When play resumed in virtual silence on Rod Laver Arena after the boisterous atmosphere that had riled Djokovic earlier, Fritz went on to level the match.
But the stoppage appeared to help Djokovic who, despite still struggling physically, dominated the fifth set, reeling off the last four games with his trademark baseline accuracy.
The Serb roared into the night sky like a man possessed after claiming his 78th, and possibly It strangest, match win at the tournament he has dominated in the past decade.
Whether he can carry on is a major doubt though as he only has a two-day window to recover from what he described it as a tear before facing Canadian 14th seed Milos Raonic on Sunday.