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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.

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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.”


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