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Milestone win for Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic celebrates after victory against Tomas Etcheverry.

Novak Djokovic celebrates after victory against Tomas Etcheverry. Photo: Getty

Novak Djokovic has rediscovered some of his trademark mojo to tame Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry in a milestone third-round win at the Australian Open.

The 10-time Open champion has not been bested at Melbourne Park since 2018 but has not flown out of the blocks at the start of yet another title defence.

Croatian young gun Dino Prizmic and home favourite Alexei Popyrin both pinched a set from the Serb in the opening rounds as the world No.1 battled a mystery illness and a heckler.

But the 36-year-old was in complete control on Friday night, smashing 34 winners in his 100th match at Melbourne Park and never facing a break point in a largely routine 6-3 6-3 7-6 (7-2) victory over No.30 seed Etcheverry.

Djokovic becomes the third player in Open history to reach the century mark, behind old foe Roger Federer (117 matches) and American legend Serena Williams (105).

The king of Melbourne Park described Friday’s performance as the best of his tournament so far and was in a reflective mood when asked what motivated him during his younger years.

“I’ve been blessed to go through a very interesting life journey,” Djokovic said.

“Coming from Serbia during the 90s wasn’t easy for my family, and my parents had to endure a lot of adversity economically and in every sense in order for me to live my dream.”

Etcheverry was far from disgraced but failed to land a blow on Djokovic all night after downing veterans Andy Murray and Gael Monfils to make the third round.

The Serb showed off his generational agility and touch early, losing a grand total of four points on serve to take the first set.

Djokovic broke quickly to take a 2-1 lead in the second but wasn’t without a few outbursts, gesturing at his box and drawing a wry smile from coach Goran Ivanisevic.

He couldn’t hide his annoyance when handed a code violation for failing to begin his service motion before the clock hit zero.

Keen for an early night, Djokovic produced an inch-perfect drop shot in his final service game to keep the lifting Argentine at bay, calling on his years of experience to close out the tiebreak and settle the match in a little less than two-and-a-half hours.

After stretching his Open winning streak to 31, the 24-time major champion will face either American Ben Shelton or France’s Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round.

–AAP

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