MELBOURNE: The Australian Open rolls on amid a Melbourne lockdown, but the tournament risks losing its greatest champion in the first week as fans wait to hear if Novak Djokovic will be fit to play on Sunday.
Djokovic suffered a muscle tear in his third-round, five-set epic against Taylor Fritz, and the world number one skipped practice on Saturday in a bid to recover in time to resume his quest for a record-extending ninth title at Melbourne Park.
Withdrawing from the tournament would be devastating for the defending champion who has won 17 Grand Slams in all, especially after his fourth-round disqualification in the U.S. Open last year when he accidentally hit a ball at a line judge.
“I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don’t know (if) I’m going to step out on to the court or not,” Djokovic said after a match with Fritz.
His next opponent, Canadian Milos Raonic, may not complain however, having lost all 11 times he has played Djokovic, the most recent being the final of the rescheduled Cincinnati tournament last August.
Third seed Dominic Thiem may have hoped to have the crowd back on his side after dispatching home favourite Nick Kyrgios in a five-set thriller, but instead he will face Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in an empty Rod Laver Arena.
An action-packed women’s schedule will have U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka take on two-times Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza – the first time the pair have met on court – while Serena Williams is up against feisty Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.
Romanian second seed Simona Halep, seeking her first hard court major, will be tested by reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who has yet to drop a set at the tournament.