Melbourne, Australia, Jan 21 (EFE).- Novak Djokovic overcame more injury trouble to beat Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets on Saturday and reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The Serb, a nine-time champion in Melbourne, had also struggled with hamstring issues in his last match and looked to be in pain for much of this clash, taking a medical time out after sealing the first set on a tie break.
But fourth-seeded Djokovic, who is looking to equal Rafael Nadal’s all-time record 22 Grand Slam titles, powered through against the 27th seed from Bulgaria to win 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, 6-4 and set up a round four meeting with Australian Alex de Minau, who also won in straight sets against Benjamin Bonzi of France.
Djokovic’s childhood friend Andy Murray will not be joining the Serb in the fourth round, however, after he lost to Spain’s 24th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 6-4.
Murray, who has returned from a career-threatening hip surgery in 2019 and was on court until 4am on Friday morning on the way to winning an epic second round five-setter against Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis, struggled valiantly to match the Spaniard after his exertions in the previous round.
Bautista Agut will take on the unseeded American Tommy Paul in the fourth round on Monday.
In the women’s draw, fourth-seed Caroline Garcia of France booked her spot in the next round of the tournament with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Germany’s Laura Siegemund.
It was her second career victory over the German, after winning their previous clash at Roland Garros in 2021.
After dropping to 74th in the world at the start of last year, Garcia has rediscovered her best form to climb to fourth off the back of 39 matches since June.
Her aggressive approach against Siegemund meant that she hit 37 unforced errors compared to her opponent’s 28, but her dominant first serve papered over those cracks.
Garcia will face Poland’s unseeded Magda Linette in the fourth round, after she upset 19th-seed Ekaterina Alexandrova from Russia 6-3, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Switzerland’s 12th seed Belinda Bencic and Belarus Aryna Sabalenka (5th seed) will meet in the fourth round after overcoming Italian Camila Giorgi, 6-2, 7-5, and Belgian Elise Mertens (26), 6-2, 6-3, respectively.
Sabalenka, who has never made it past the round of 16 in Melbourne, put friendship to one side as she overcame her doubles partner Mertens, with whom she won five WTA titles, including an Australian Open in 2021 and a US Open in 2019.EFE