Djokovic Survives Injury, Fritz; Thiem Tames Kyrgios; Nadal, Russians Return Sat.
Nick Kyrgios couldn’t pull off his second straight 5-set upset as Dominic Thiem came from two sets down to beat the Australian 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in just over three hours in the third round at the Australian Open.
Kyrgios started with a quick break and rode his fast-paced game to an early set led. The crowd was in full frenzy and Kyrgios pulled ahead by another break in the second to eventually go up two sets.
Because of a recent COVID outbreak, the tournament, from Saturday, would not be allowed to have crowds until Thursday, so the locals made their voices known and Kyrgios responded. But he let break points slip early in the third and the Austrian got back into the match. He broke Kyrgios and grew stronger by the game, breaking the 25-year-old in the fourth to force the decider. And with the momentum and Kyrgios beginning to fade, Thiem proved the stronger player.
“There are easier things than playing Nick at his home tournament on his favorite court,” said Thiem. “He is a huge player when he is on fire like today. When I was down two break points in the first game of the third set, I was considering the prospect of losing. But I kept fighting and with the break in the third set, I thought there was a chance to turn it around. The longer the match went on, the more comfortable I felt.
“I stood further behind the baseline to return his serves in order to read his serve better and I got more looks to break him. I always prefer playing in front of a crowd, even if they are for their local hero, but I accepted it. Tonight was epic and it was a great match.”
Kyrgios gave credit to Thiem.
“It was an amazing atmosphere,” said Kyrgios. “The energy out there was special. But I’m still proud of myself. I was 11 months away from the game, and to produce that level and go toe-to-toe with one of the best players in the world, I’m pretty proud. I left it all out there. I actually physically felt pretty good. I’m sore now.
“He’s a hell of a player. He’s so disciplined. He’s so composed. His level doesn’t drop,” he added. “I’m not disappointed at all. I’m super proud of everything I’ve done the past couple of months to get ready for it.”
Thiem will get former Australian Open semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday for a spot in the quarters.
In the last match of the day, Novak Djokovic survived a serious scare toughing out injury and Taylor Fritz 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.
Djokovic was in full control of the match up two sets until he awkwardly slipped on the Melbourne sign injuring his right ab area. Djokovic got multiple treatments but they didn’t help as the Serb’s serve was off. Fritz took advantage and took the third then went up a break in the fourth at 3-2 when the match was stopped to allow for fans to leave under the new 11:30pm curfew order.
After a 10-minute delay, things looked no better for Novak who dropped the fourth. Fritz was rolling on his serve while Djokovic was struggling.
Somehow, things would change.
Djokovic put together two easy service games and then finally broke Fritz to go up 4-2. He would win the last four games of the match, afterward letting out a massive scream in the now-empty Rod Laver Arena.
“Right now I know it’s a tear of the muscle,” Djokovic said. “I don’t think I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don’t know if I’m going to step out on the court or not. I am just very proud of this achievement.
“The way it felt the beginning of the third set when I got my first medical timeout, I was debating really strongly in my head to retire after two games because I couldn’t move. I couldn’t rotate or return.”
If he can go, Djokovic next gets Milos Raonic who got past Marton Fucsovics.
Meanwhile, Fritz wasn’t feeling the Djokovic injury.
Fritz: 'I should have expected that. If he was really, really injured, he wouldn't have kept playing. He looked like he was struggling in 3rd & 4th, he didn't look like he was struggling in the fifth… Maybe he fought through it. I'm happy for him he had such a good recovery.'
— George Bellshaw (@BellshawGeorge) February 12, 2021
In the big Canadian showdown, Felix Auger-Aliassime had his way with Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.
“I didn’t have so much luck here the last year but I always love this place,” Auger-Aliassime said on court.
“So finally this year I’m playing some good tennis and am through to the second week in front of you guys, and it’s a pleasure.”
Alexander Zverev blew past Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. He’ll now meet Dusan Lajovic.
And little-known qualifier Aslan Karatsev knocked out No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Karatsev. “First of all, qualifying. I was already happy. And then it’s round by round I played really good tennis. And after a lot of work I’ve done in the past years, I’m happy.”
He’ll take on Auger-Aliassime.
The third round concludes with Rafael Nadal meeting fellow lefty Cameron Norrie. The Russians are back trying to join surprising countryman Karatsev in the fourth round. Daniil Medvedev has won his last 16 matches as he faces Serb Filip Krajinovic. Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov are also in action.
SATURDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena – 11:00 AM
MUCHOVA, Karolina (CZE)  vs. PLISKOVA, Karolina (CZE) 
KRAJINOVIC, Filip (SRB)  vs. MEDVEDEV, Daniil (RUS) 
BENCIC, Belinda (SUI)  vs. MERTENS, Elise (BEL) 
KONTAVEIT, Anett (EST)  vs. ROGERS, Shelby (USA)
NORRIE, Cameron (GBR) vs. NADAL, Rafael (ESP) 
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