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It was an incredible battle: Novak Djokovic

Updated on: 22 January,2023 09:56 AM IST  |  Melbourne

Hurting Serbian overcomes troubled hamstring to beat Grigor Dimitrov and stays on course for record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam; Murray bows out

It was an incredible battle: Novak Djokovic

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns to Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov at Melbourne Park in Australia on Saturday. Pics/AFP, Getty Images

Novak Djokovic’s hamstring just about held up as the hot favourite reached the Australian Open Last 16 on Saturday, as Andy Murray’s heroic run ended in typically defiant style. Hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka meanwhile burnished her title credentials as she barrelled into round four along with several other women’s seeds. 

An ailing Djokovic had heavy strapping and needed treatment twice on his troublesome left hamstring before defeating Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena. 

Grigor DimitrovGrigor Dimitrov

The Serb will face home hope Alex de Minaur for a place in the quarter-finals as he closes on a 10th Melbourne Park crown and a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title.

“Obviously, I didn’t know how I’m going to feel physically, it was going up and down,” said Djokovic. “It was an incredible battle, three sets over three hours. Let’s rest up and prepare for the next one.” 

Djokovic’s fellow 35-year-old Murray will not join him in the next round, however, as the Briton’s 4:05 am finish eventually caught up with him.

Also Read: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal can only meet in final at Australian Open

Roberto stuns Andy

Former No.1 Murray was clearly feeling the effects of his epic five-setter in round two, which started on Thursday but ended in the early hours of Friday. 

Andy MurrayAndy Murray

The 24th-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut won 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 6-4 and faces unseeded Tommy Paul of the United States in the Last 16. 

Also in the men’s draw, fifth seed Andrey Rublev surged into a clash with Holger Rune—then thanked his beaten opponent Dan Evans for giving him a banana mid-match. The Russian crushed the Briton 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to make the fourth round for a third time. He will face Danish teenager Rune for a place in the quarter-finals after the ninth seed survived a nasty fall to sweep past unseeded Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).

Banana power for Rublev

His friend and 25th seed Evans threw a banana to Rublev at a changeover when he ran out. “I didn’t ask him, I asked the ball boy, but Danny asked for bananas earlier and he had two so he just said ‘take it’, and I caught it,” said Rublev. “He helped me with some energy, for sure,” he joked. 

Sabalenka to play Bencic

Sabalenka is building a head of steam in her pursuit of a first Grand Slam title. The Belarusian fifth seed blew away 26th-seeded Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-3 to set up a clash with Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.  Bencic has also not dropped a set in Melbourne. The Swiss 12th seed eased past unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi 6-2, 7-5. Also into the fourth round is the French fourth seed Caroline Garcia fought back after a disastrous first set to beat World No.158 Laura Siegemund 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

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