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Novak Djokovic injured at Australian Open, may withdraw

Novak Djokovic

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 12: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning a point in his Men’s Singles third round match against Taylor Fritz of the United Statesduring day five of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 12, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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An injured Novak Djokovic said he doesn’t know if he will play his next Australian Open match after rallying past American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-4, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the fourth round.

Djokovic, the world No. 1 seeking a record-extending ninth Australian Open title, said after the match that he tore a muscle.

“I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days,” Djokovic said in a 12:25 a.m. on-court interview at an almost empty Rod Laver Arena after fans were forced to leave during the fourth set at 11:30 p.m. local time due to a new coronavirus lockdown in Melbourne. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to step out onto the court or not. I just, I am very proud of this achievement tonight. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

In the third set, Djokovic slipped while changing direction behind the baseline. He received treatment on his right abdominal area, after which the 23-year-old, 27th-seeded Fritz seized control to even the match. Djokovic turned it back by taking the last four games in the decider.


The Serb roared upon winning match point, generating little reaction given the crowd’s exit.

“I just tried to stay in there, and I was hopeful that whatever is happening there is going to feel better,” Djokovic said. “Towards the end of the fourth, it started to feel better. ... This is definitely one of the most special wins of my life. It doesn’t matter what round it is and against who it is. Under these kind of circumstances to pull this through is definitely something I’ll remember forever.”

Djokovic, a 17-time major champion, is three behind the record shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Federer is not playing the Australian Open after two knee surgeries. Nadal is playing but said before the tournament that he was nursing his back.

In the round of 16, Djokovic is scheduled to play 14th-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic, a 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. Djokovic is 11-0 against Raonic.

Earlier Friday, Serena Williams swept her third consecutive opponent -- 7-6 (5), 6-2 over 101st-ranked Russian Anastasia Potapova -- to reach a fourth-round date with No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Williams, who has never faced the 22-year-old Sabalenka, will play her first match against a top-10 opponent in 17 months. Sabalenka has won 18 of her last 19 matches but has a reputation for performing better outside of Slams than during them.

No. 2 Simona Halep and No. 3 Naomi Osaka advanced in straight sets into fourth-round showdowns against fellow major champions. Halep gets 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek of Poland. Osaka next plays Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, a Wimbledon and French Open winner. Those are on Sunday.

In other Friday men’s third-round matches, No. 3 Dominic Thiem rallied pats polarizing Australian Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Felix Auger-Aliassime won an all-Canadian matchup with Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.

Nadal and Ash Barty play third-round matches Saturday.

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