Novak Djokovic on his injury: ‘I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days’

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Novak Djokovic in pain

Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open hopes are in the balance due to a torn stomach muscle.

On a night of high drama in Melbourne, world No 1 Djokovic was leading Taylor Fritz by two sets before suffering an injury to his right side which left him barely able to muster a forehand.

The reigning champion, eight-time winner and overwhelming favourite had looked on the verge of retiring injured with every post-rally grimace as American 27th seed Fritz reeled him in to level the third-round match.

But play was suspended for 10 minutes at 11.30pm while the crowd were told to leave under a new government lockdown, and Djokovic re-emerged to battle through the pain barrier and win 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.

However, the Serbian cut a gloomy figure when quizzed about continuing in the tournament.

He said: “I really don’t know, my friend. Right now, I know it’s a tear, definitely, of the muscle.

“So I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m gonna step out onto the court or not.”

Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz

Novak Djokovic battled through the pain to beat Taylor Fritz (Andy Brownbill/AP)

Upon securing an unlikely victory Djokovic’s scream of relief echoed around an eerily silent stadium, a stark contrast to the scenes just an hour earlier in the John Cain Arena.

There, before the curfew was enforced, Dominic Thiem survived a command performance from Nick Kyrgios, coming back from two sets down to win an epic encounter.

Controversial Australian Kyrgios whipped the late-night crowd into a frenzy as he raced ahead but Thiem somehow held himself together to stage a remarkable comeback, winning 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Earlier, unknown Russian Aslan Karatsev caused a major shock when he destroyed eighth seed Diego Schwartzman in straight sets.

The 27-year-old qualifier, ranked 114 in the world and playing at his first Grand Slam, stunned Argentinian Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Karatsev will play 20th seed Felix Auger Aliassime, who won the all-Canadian showdown with Dennis Shapovalov in straight sets, in round four.

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