By Lobsang DS Subirana
Bangkok Desk, Feb 12 (efe-epa).-Serbia’s Novak Djokovic battled through an injury to his oblique muscle Friday to beat American Taylor Fritz 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of the Australian Open but there will be doubts as to how long he will last in the competition.
“This is definitely one of the most special wins in my life,” the world number one said in the post-match interview. “In the third and fourth set I just served and couldn’t do much with the returns. I was just putting in two first serves.”
The Serb is due to play 14th-seed Milos Raonic in the next round but considering his injury, Djokovic added: “I don’t know if I will recover from that in two days. I don’t know if I will step on court.”
There were two pauses to the match — first to allow Djokovic received medical attention and secondly — and more bizarrely — to allow the crowd to leave in time to make it home for the new curfew imposed in Victoria and its capital Melbourne, where the tournament is held.
Earlier in the day, Austria’s Dominic Thiem produced a plethora of box office tennis to beat home crowd favorite Nick Kyrgios in an enthralling match Friday night at the Australian Open.
The No. 3 seed prevailed 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and marched onto the tournament’s fourth round before an electric crowd who saw their hero for the last time following a ban on spectators that will start Saturday in light of new COVID-19 restrictions.
“I was already dealing with the loss,” Thiem said when asked post-match about what went through his mind as he found himself two sets down, adding that playing Kyrgios in front of his home fans is “one of the tougher challenges we have in our sport.”
Kyrgios fed off the energy of the fans, who cheered every point he won from the first moment, culminating in an early break for the Australian as he quickly raced to a two-game lead. Thiem, unable to find his rhythm, was erratic with his backhand slice and produced a flurry of unforced errors, ultimately handing Kyrgios the first set to a massive roar from the John Cain Arena.
It was telling that the Austrian had only been broken once until late in the second set, yet looked insecure throughout his service game. Kyrgios, in full groove, brought out the under-arm serve from his trickshot repertoire a couple of times, going as far as to fake one to then smash an ace down the tee. He broke the No. 3 seed again and grabbed the second set with another underarm serve.