Heavy injury, but Novak Djokovic still beat Taylor Fritz after five sets with the scores 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 on the evening of February 12.
In the first 90 minutes of the match, Fritz caused many difficulties for Djokovic, but everything still went according to the will of the Serbian star. The world number one player won the first two sets 7-6, 6-4 before the turning point came at the beginning of the third set. When the score was 1-1, Djokovic slipped in an attempt to save the ball from Fritz’s forehand. After the fall, “Nole” stood up with a wound in her abdomen. Losing his opponent’s game, Djokovic immediately called for medical attention.
Spectators at the Rod Laver pitch knew they would have to stay home for the next five days, due to a social outrage order in Melbourne. Because of that, they screamed harder than ever. Among them, there are boos and teasing for Djokovic – who interrupted the match.
The pressure was on Djokovic, as his injury showed signs of seriousness. Fritz won the third set of 6-3, and then won the game of catching the ball to lead 3-2 in set four. At that time, the referee realized that the match could not end before 23:30 local time. The organizers announced that the spectators were forced to leave the field, to ensure they went home before 23:59 pm according to the gap regulation from February 13 by the Victorian government.
Ten minutes for the crowd to leave the field becomes precious to Djokovic. When he returned, he gradually regained his sense of movement and hit his backhand. “At the beginning of the third set, after the first medical call, I asked myself if I should give up,” Djokovic shared with Eurosport after the match. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t turn. The only thing I could do was serve and it got me out of trouble.”
Losing the fourth set to 4-6, but Djokovic had confidence to return in the decisive set. He started cautiously by keeping the game steady. When leading 3-2 and having a break-point, Djokovic puts effort into the important point and scores a winner along the line. He won another game to catch the ball, after Fritz hit the ball out at the match-point at 12:20 a.m. local time. Escape with a five-set victory after an unprecedented experience, the champions shouted in the middle of the field with no audience left.
Fritz’s journey almost ended from the previous round, when he lost the first two sets to fellow American Reilly Opelka and was 1–5 in the tie-break fourth set. On February 12, he was unable to win back for the second time in a row after being 0-2, despite scoring more winner (62 vs. 52) and less self-defeating errors than Djokovic. “Nole”, who after the match revealed a muscle tear, met 14 seed Milos Raonic in round four.