It was a much more comfortable night for Novak Djokovic Saturday as he took on Grigor Dimitrov in the third round at the Australian Open. Djokovic broke the Bulgarian quickly and saved a few set points in the opener before getting a handle on the match to win it 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4.
“Every point and game mattered,” Djokovic said. “The turning point for both players was right from the start. Making an early break was important. I didn’t know how I was going to feel physically. I was going up and down. Grigor is someone that I truly admire and respect. He is one of my best friends on Tour. We go back a long time. He is one of the most talented players you will see. He is such a great athlete.”
Djokovic finished with 28 winners to 22 unforced errors and 11 aces, but was broken three times — neither player had dropped serve entering the match. The left hamstring still isn’t back where it needs to be, but Djokovic push on.
“The first match was good,” Djokovic said of the injury which twice needed treatment. “The second match I struggled a lot. I had couple of moments where it was really bad. Today, as well. But I managed to survive and kind of pull it through. I’ll take it match by match. I don’t know what awaits but I do hope and I have faith for the best.
“It kind of always starts well in the past few matches, including this one, and then some movement happens and then gets worse,” he added. “The pills kicked in, some hot cream and stuff. That works for a little bit, then it doesn’t work again. It’s really a roller coaster.
“It requires a lot of energy that is being spent from my side mentally and physically, to deal with the match with my opponent and also not the ideal physical state. But it is what it is. It’s a kind of circumstances that you have to accept. I’m just very grateful that I’m actually able to play. The way it looked just before the tournament started, I thought that it wouldn’t be possible. I’m still here and still holding on.”
Djokovic has now won 37 straight matches in Australia and 24 consecutive at the Australian Open. He’s 8-0 on the year.
Up next for Novak in the final 16 is Australian Alex De Minaur after he returned to the fourth round for a second straight year beating Benjamin Bonzi in three sets.
Andy Murray’s run can to an end last night with Roberto Bautista Agut once again doing the honors. The Spaniard ended Murray’s career once before in 2019 in Melbourne and Saturday took down the Brit 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4.
After going 10+ hours at age 35 on a metal hip, Murray didn’t have much to offer against the fresher, younger Spaniard. He grabbed a thrilling second set breaker but that was the lone highlight
“Lots of mixed emotions. I feel like I gave everything that I had to this event. So I’m proud of that,” Murray said. “I’m also disappointed because I put loads of work into the beginning of this year and was playing well enough to have a really good run, have a deep run.
“I think even tonight I’m competing against a guy 20 in the world, and it’s still very tight considering the circumstances.”
Bautista has now beaten Murray four straight times.
“Always playing Andy is very tough,” Bautista Agut said after. “He knows very well how to play a Grand Slam match. I am happy with how I handled the nerves and tension through the match, to play good tennis. I am very happy with the win.
“I am feeling good on the court. I am competing well and I am doing everything I can off court to make sure I play good matches. Today was very tough.”
Three Americans moved on to the fourth round, all in straight sets. JJ Wolf cruised past lucky loser Michael Mmoh, Tommy Paul had no issues with an ailing Jenson Brooksby who was struggling with a wrist injury and in the evening Ben Shelton quieted a noisy John Cain Arena cracking 34 winners including 12 aces in a victory over Australian Alexei Popyrin.
Holger Rune survived a scary right ankle roll to advance past Ugo Humbert. He’ll now face Andrey Rublev who out-gunned Dan Evans.
Today, Stefanos Tsitsipas will seek his fifth win in six tries against Jannik Sinner. Tsitsipas had made the Australian Open semifinals three times.
Felix Auger-Aliassime, Karen Khachanov are also in action and Sebastian Korda collides with Hubert Hurkacz.
SUNDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena – 11:00 AM
Not before: 12:30 PM
SWIATEK, Iga (POL)  vs. RYBAKINA, Elena (KAZ) 
HURKACZ, Hubert (POL)  vs. KORDA, Sebastian (USA) 
TSITSIPAS, Stefanos (GRE)  vs. SINNER, Jannik (ITA) 
2. WS404 AZARENKA, Victoria  vs. ZHU, Lin (CHN)
Margaret Court Arena – 11:00 AM
Not before: 1:00 PM
OSTAPENKO, Jelena (LAT)  vs. GAUFF, Coco (USA) 
Not before: 3:30 PM
LEHECKA, Jiri (CZE) vs. AUGER-ALIASSIME, Felix (CAN) 
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