Novak Djokovic sweats his way to Australian Open semi-final amid scheduling farce

Novak Djokovic is through to the semi-final of the Australian Open after defeating Taylor Fritz.

Novak Djokovic is through to the semi-final of the Australian Open after defeating Taylor Fritz. Photo: Getty

A hot and bothered Novak Djokovic has bounded into yet another Australian Open semi-final with a hard-fought win over Taylor Fritz amid farcical scheduling at Melbourne Park.

The pesky American 12th seed made life difficult for 36-year-old Djokovic on Tuesday afternoon in their sweltering quarter-final clash on Rod Laver Arena.

The 10-time Australian Open champion was agitated at times during the three-hour-and-45-minute battle, before reaching his 48th grand slam semi-final with a 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 6-3 victory.

“I suffered a lot in the first couple of sets (and) also due to his high-quality tennis,” Djokovic said.

“He was serving well … he was suffocating me from the back of the court.

“It was extremely hot while the sun was still out there. Physically very draining (and) emotionally as well.”

Djokovic is now just two wins away from clinching an unprecedented 25th grand slam that will surpass Margaret Court’s magic mark of 24 which has stood since 1973.

The victory sets him up for a semi-final encounter against either Italian fourth seed Jannik Sinner or Russian No.5 seed Andrey Rublev, who play later on Tuesday.

The match ended just before 8.30pm local time, delaying the night session quarter-final double header which was due to begin at 7pm.

Belarusian world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka and 2021 French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova are scheduled to lead off the session, before Sinner and Rublev take to the court.

Equalling Roger Federer’s record of 58 grand slam quarter-final appearances, Djokovic was denied his favoured prime-time night slot on Rod Laver Arena for a second successive match.

He boasted an unblemished 8-0 record against Fritz across their previous tour meetings, including a most recent straight-sets win at last year’s US Open.

The first ball of the match-up was not struck until 4.43pm local time after American Coco Gauff’s marathon win over Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk.

Djokovic immediately turned on the blowtorch but the American withstood the initial test, fending off two break points in a 24-point first game that spanned 16 minutes.

So sweltering was the 31C heat that the 10-time Open champion uncharacteristically donned a cap at the sun-facing end and repeatedly turned to ice packs to cool down.

At one change of ends, Djokovic screamed at his box to get their attention after rifling through his supplies.

Fritz, a first-time quarter-finalist in Melbourne, found his bearings and bought up two sets points at 6-5 but the GOAT showed his superior metal to force a tiebreak.

After a poor start to the tiebreak, Fritz’s first-set fate was effectively sealed with a vintage passing shot from a fired-up Djokovic who blew a kiss to Australian Nick Kyrgios in the commentary box.

Fritz made amends by breaking Djokovic in the first game of the second set after the Serb inexplicably served three double faults and never got it back.

The king of Melbourne Park had failed to convert any of his first 15 break point chances before breaking through early in the third and going on to break another three times.


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