Novak Djokovic dug deep into his reserves to hold off injury and beat Taylor Fritz 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 and reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Whilst there were fireworks going on between Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem, Djokovic got off to a fairly routine start as he took the opening two sets against Fritz.
However in the third set Djokovic pulled up following a slide, holding his side and stomach with an injury that required attention from his trainer.
Fritz pounced, taking the next two sets, during which there was a break for the spectators to leave the stadium due to the new lockdown in Victoria, but there was something different about Djokovic in the final set.
The world number one started to look like he did in the first couple of sets and all of a sudden Fritz was on the back foot, struggling to cope with his illustrious opponent.
In the end it was Djokovic who took the win, breaking twice in the final set, and he let out a series of gutteral roars, showing just how much the win meant to him.
“Well obviously mentally and emotionally, I feel great,” Djokovic said in the Eurosport Cube after the game.
“It’s a huge relief to pull this one through in these kinds of conditions I found myself in … it was one of a kind type of match, for me, that’s what I said on the court, and I really mean it.
“It’s one of the best moments I’ve had in my career under these kinds of circumstances.”
“Obviously I don’t want to talk about the intensity, or the level of injury, or the pain, it’s not going to matter much because people don’t understand what you go through on the court.
“The way it felt at the beginning of the third set, when I got my first medical timeout, I was debating really strongly in my head to retire the match after two games, because I just couldn’t move, I couldn’t rotate, I couldn’t return, the only thing I could do is serve, and that’s what got me out of the trouble … I knew my only chance is if I serve well and put pressure on his service games, which happened.
“And whatever is happening here [the injury] got better in the fifth, and I could start to play, and return a few serves.”
Djokovic sounded a warning ahead of his fourth-round match by stating that the injury appears to be a tear, seemingly threatening his ongoing participation in the tournament.
“I’m obviously very, very proud of this but at the same time also a bit worried because I don’t know what’s going on and I think it’s a tear,” he said.
“I had a kind of weird feeling on one of the returns just before I got a medical time out and I knew right away that something not so great is happening.
“It was confirmed by a physio from the ATP, but let’s see. I don’t know. I don’t have a great experience with tears in terms of continuing in the tournament, so that’s something which is kind of in the clouds for me at the moment, whether I’m going to step out on the court in two days.
“Hopefully, god-willing I’ll be able to play.”