MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic’s bid for a ninth Australian Open championship was thrown into doubt after he took a fall during a five-set victory in the third round and said he tore a muscle.
The No. 1-ranked Djokovic said he might not be able to play his next match, scheduled for Sunday against Milos Raonic.
Djokovic seemed to be cruising along to a 17th consecutive win against a U.S. opponent when his left foot gave out from under him as he tried to change directions early in the third set Friday night against Taylor Fritz.
After slipping on the white “MELBOURNE” lettering at the back of the blue court, Djokovic took a medical timeout for treatment on his side and later was helped more by a trainer. Fritz got back into the match but couldn’t pull off the upset as Djokovic eventually played a bit better in the fifth set and won 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.
Asked afterward about his status, Djokovic said: “Right now, I know it’s a tear, definitely, of the muscle, so I don’t know if I’ll recover from that.”
As for the match against Raonic?
“I don’t know if I will step on the court or not,” Djokovic said.
The match began with spectators present, but they were forced to leave the stadium a little past 11:30 p.m. because a local COVID-19 lockdown began at midnight. The match ended at nearly 12:30 a.m.
No fans will be allowed at the tournament for at least five days due to an uptick in coronavirus cases in the outer suburbs.
“In a way, it’s unfortunate for the crowd that we didn’t finish the match with them seeing the end. They were enjoying it, certainly,” Djokovic said. “On the other hand, for me … I was just trying to focus on what’s going on with an injury and praying and hoping that somehow it would get better.”