ATP: Ailing Novak Djokovic wins in Australia; Americans roll sans Taylor Fritz
Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round, overcoming injury and inebriated fans in a nighttime win that also casts doubt on his next match.
The Serbian won his 23rd consecutive match at Rod Laver Arena and will play Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the third round after taking down France’s Enzo Couacaud, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-0.
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Djokovic landed 63 winners but labored heavily. He said the ball is slower in cooler temperatures this year at the Australian Open, and his painful, heavily wrapped and problematic strained left hamstring didn’t help matters.
“To be honest, it’s not good at all,” Djokovic said of taking several breaks to stretch the muscle. “Look, I’ll take it day-to-day. … I’ll ask God to help me, hope that I’ll be able to recover and be ready for the next match.”
Djokovic’s serve was interrupted by boisterous fans and screaming multiple times, but he smiled and replied “thank you” while preparing to serve.
“Little bit of everything tonight. Just glad to get through this type of match,” Djokovic said. “That’s Grand Slam tennis at night.”
No. 2 seed Casper Ruud of Norway was eliminated by Jenson Brooksby, one of eight American men to reach the third round. Brooksby surged ahead but dropped the third set before winning 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2.
“I knew today was a match I could win. I just approached this match like any other,” Brooksby said after the three-hour, 55-minute match.
Energetic 20-year-old American Ben Shelton became a fan favorite during his 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 7-5 second-round win over Chile’s Nicolas Jarry. Shelton entered the match having outlasted China’s top-ranked male, Zhizhen Zhang, in a five-set nailbiter.
Michael Mmoh upset German 12th seed Alexander Zverev 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Mmoh entered the main draw as a “lucky loser” after Belgium’s David Goffin had to withdraw.
Despite the American success, the country’s top-ranked player, No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz, was handed an early exit. Australian wild card Alexei Popyrin outlasted Fritz 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-2 in four hours and two minutes.
Fifth seed Andrey Rublev of Russia stopped his match with Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori to speak with courtside officials because of heckling from fans holding a Ukrainian flag. Rublev won 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 and advanced to face Britain’s Daniel Evans.
No. 9 seed Holger Rune of Denmark and No. 22 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia were also winners Thursday. The final match of the night, between four-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray of Great Britain and home-crowd favorite Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, had reached a fifth set and surpassed the five-hour mark.
–Field Level Media
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