Australian Open: Novak Djokovic back on track for title defence

Novak Djokovic overcame injury worries to defeat Milos Raonic in the fourth round of the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic kept his Australian Open title defence alive

Novak Djokovic, who had reportedly skipped practice on Saturday as he awaited medical advise on an abdominal injury, took court against Milos Raonic in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday.

The eight-time Australian Open champion overcame a slow start to defeat the Canadian 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in two hours and 56 minutes.

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Djokovic’s title defence had seemed in doubt as he struggled past Taylor Fritz in five sets in the previous round. The World No 1 had feared that he had an abdominal tear during the intense third-round encounter.

“I had no preparation for this match,” said Djokovic.

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“I used every hour I had to recover since the Taylor match. My physio and those of the ATP and Australian Open gave me their best support to get on the court. I have definitely been fitter in the past and I will continue to take each day one at a time.”

But once on court, Djokovic showed few signs of the abdominal muscle injury and struck 41 winners in the match. He improved to a perfect 12-0 ATP Head2Head record against the Canadian, who had strapping applied to his right ankle in the second set.

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The World No. 1 became only the second man (after Roger Federer) to record 300 match wins at the four Grand Slam championships (300-45).

After the match, Djokovic said that he was on painkillers and unsure of how much damage he had done to body by playing through the injury.

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He will take on Alexander Zverev in the last eight. The German scored a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 over Dusan Lajovic earlier in the day.

Simona Halep avenges French Open defeat to Iga Swiatek

Second seed Simona Halep defeated Iga Swiatek 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the Australian Open fourth round on Sunday as the Romanian avenged her shock defeat by the Polish teenager at the same stage of last year’s French Open.

Halep overcame an error-prone opening set  to seal her 100th Grand Slam match win to set up an eagerly anticipated quarter-final clash with Serena Williams.

Swiatek, who knocked out Halep en route to her maiden Grand Slam title in Paris, troubled Halep with her powerful forehands early on. But the Romanian started working her around the court more and won five successive games over the second and third set to clinch victory.

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“I knew I had to change something, because I was hitting too strong and too flat,” Halep, the 2018 finalist, said. “I moved her a little bit better and that’s why she started to miss and probably lost her rhythm.

“The court is very fast and not easy, because it is sliding so much, but I am just trying to focus on myself as much as possible.”

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Ahead of her quarter-final against Williams, Halep can draw confidence from their previous meeting when she secured only her second win over the American to claim the 2019 Wimbledon title.

“Legend. She is the best,” Halep said of her longtime rival. “It is always tough, I have experience, so many matches against her. I will just try to enjoy and play my best, because you only beat Serena if you play your best.”