Novak Djokovic has booked a place in the Australian Open last 16 for the 15th time from 18 trips to Melbourne. Novak still deals with a left leg injury, but he did enough to topple Grigor Dimitrov 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and six minutes.
Djokovic is still far from his best, struggling with a hamstring injury but surviving the first-set challenge to seal the deal in straight sets and preserve energy. Both players had more winners than unforced errors, and Grigor was more aggressive.
Djokovic delivered five breaks and lost serve three times to emerge at the top and set the clash against Alex de Minaur. The opening set went down to the wire and lasted 80 minutes! Novak missed his chances to take it earlier and had to play against a set point in the tie break.
He denied it and prevailed for a massive boost of confidence, considering his physical shape. Novak made a strong start and broke Grigor in the encounter's first game. The Serb settled into a fine rhythm behind his initial shot and delivered four comfortable holds to forge a 5-3 advantage.
Dimitrov served to stay in the set in game nine and faced three set points. The Bulgarian denied them and reduced the deficit before the Serb served for the set at 5-4.
Novak Djokovic is through into the last 16 at the Australian Open.
Suddenly, Novak got broken for the first time, and Grigor held at love in the next one for his first advantage. Djokovic served at 5-6 and faced more issues, as his leg bothered him big time. A nine-time champion faced two set points and defended them to introduce a tie break.
Novak served well and built a 5-2 lead before Grigor climbed back to 5-5. The Bulgarian defended a set point at 5-6 and took the next one for his set point. Djokovic erased it and clinched the breaker 9-7 after a volley winner at the net.
With momentum on his side, Novak served well in the second set and kept the pressure on the other side. Grigor survived a scare in the fourth game, saving break points and remaining on the positive side. However, Djokovic broke him in game six to open a 4-2 gap and brought the set home with a hold at love in game nine.
The third set kicked off with two tight games with many deuces, and Novak grabbed an early break for 2-0. He stole Grigor's serve again to build a 3-0 advantage and move closer to the finish line. Dimitrov pulled one break back in game four before Djokovic broke him for the third straight time a few minutes later for 4-1.
Novak squandered a game point and got broken in game six to keep the rival within one break deficit. The Serb moved 5-3 up with another fine hold, and the Bulgarian reduced the deficit with a forehand winner in game nine. Novak served for the victory at 5-4 and created match points after an incredible rally. Dimitrov sprayed a forehand error on the first to push Djokovic into the next round.