Novak Djokovic advanced to the round of 16 at the Australian Open for the fourteenth time in his career after beating Taylor Fritz 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 after three hours and 25 minutes. The Serbian suffered an abdominal injury in the early stages of the third set and lost ground in the third and early fourth to bring the American back into the fray.
Djokovic recovered his punches from the first part of the fourth set and dominated the decisive one to cross the finish line first and avoid a massive setback. Novak won four more points in the first set, opening a 5-2 lead before Taylor rallied to reach a tie break.
In the opening game, Djokovic saved a break point and fired a winning forehand shot at 2-1 to forge the first lead. In the seventh game, the Serbian saved two break points to open a 5-2 gap and served for the set at 5-3. Suddenly, the American withdrew the break to extend the set and introduce a tie break, which Djokovic claimed 7-1 with an ace in the 54th minute.
The defending champion lost just eight points on serve in set number two, fending off two break opportunities at 4-3 and closing the set with an early break. He came in in the first game when Novak forced errors from Taylor, setting a good rhythm and wasting more break opportunities in games five and seven.
Serving 4-3, the world's leading player repelled those two break points to stay in front and added a service winner at 5-4 to carve out a two-set lead. Facing two break points in the second game of the third set, Djokovic saved both and forced Fritz's error to bring the game home.
Novak was injured at the opening point of game three after slipping on the Melbourne sign paint behind the baseline, taking a medical timeout after the game and struggling through the remainder of the clash.
Tursunov reflects on Djokovic
A great architect of Anett Kontaveit's recent success since he became his head coach this summer after coaching Aryna Sabalenka, Dmitry Tursunov gave a long and very interesting interview to the Russian site Vedomostisport.
And when asked which Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic will end up as the best player of all time, the former 20th world player acknowledged an advantage for the Serbian. “I find it hard to assume that Novak won't win another Grand Slam.
He will break the record for the number of wins, that's not a problem for him. Roger has very little chance of winning another Major, considering his age, style of play and condition. Rafa's game is too energy intensive, he plays every game as if it was his last.
Considering his age and health, this is a disadvantage. Although over the years he changed his game: he became more aggressive, stopped going too far behind the back line. The three complement each other. Djokovic has become such a strong player thanks to Federer and Nadal.
He tried to find ways to beat them, and he relied on physical preparation. He looks like a triathlete right now, he's very meticulous."