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Djokovic battles previous Dimitrov to remain on target at Australian Open

MELBOURNE: An ailing Novak Djokovic floor previous Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday and into the final 16 because the nine-time Australian Open champion edged nearer to a record-equalling twenty second Grand Slam title.

The Serbian fourth seed got here by way of a titanic 77-minute first set earlier than taming the Bulgarian 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Area, needing therapy twice on his troublesome hamstring.

He’ll face house hope Alex de Minaur for a spot within the quarter-finals after the twenty second seed equalled his greatest outcome on the event by breezing previous Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 6-1.

Djokovic’s win not solely inched him nearer to equalling Rafael Nadal’s 22-Slam report but additionally to a tenth title, which might see him return to world primary for the primary time since June.

The victory put him into the final 16 for a fifteenth time, equalling Nadal in second place on the Open-era record for appearances within the Australian Open fourth spherical behind Roger Federer’s 18.

“Each level, each sport mattered,” he mentioned. “I feel the turning level for each gamers was proper from the blocks, very first sport making an early break for me was essential.

“Clearly, I didn’t understand how I’m going to really feel bodily, it was going up and down.

“It was an unbelievable battle, three units over three hours. Let’s relaxation up and put together for the subsequent one.”

Djokovic aggravated his hamstring throughout his run to a 92nd title on the Adelaide Worldwide this month and has been battling it since.

He got here into the match with out his ordinary off-day observe session to offer his leg as a lot time as attainable to get better.

Together with his left thigh once more closely strapped, the Serb broke instantly and consolidated to take an early grip on the primary set.

He was cruising however appeared to really feel the damage when transferring for a shot at 5-3. He managed to earn three set factors, which had been saved, however was then damaged when serving for the set at 5-4.

Agitated, he complained to the umpire about being given a time violation and was then pressured to avoid wasting two set factors earlier than an epic tiebreak.

He finally obtained over the road on his fifth set level, having saved one other one from the Bulgarian twenty seventh seed, after some intense tennis.

Djokovic took a medical timeout on the changeover and returned to dial up the stress and take a break earlier than comfortably seeing out the second set.

With Dimitrov flagging, he turned the screws additional by breaking twice early in set three and, regardless of a mid-set wobble when the Bulgarian clawed again after which extra therapy on his leg, he battled to the end line.

De Minaur, who’s gunning to make his first quarter-final at Melbourne Park, now awaits after having little bother getting previous Bonzi. The Australian mentioned he was up for the problem.

“These are the matches you need to be taking part in,” he mentioned. “I’m gonna in all probability have the most effective on the earth in entrance of me, and I’m prepared for the battle.”

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