Novak Djokovic withstood the battling performance from Taylor Fritz on Tuesday to reach the Australian Open semi-finals and stay on track for a record-breaking 25th Grand Slam title.
The Serbian world number one struggled with the conditions early in the contest but came through 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 and will play Jannik Sinner or Andrey Rublev for a place in Sunday’s final.
“It was extremely hot when the sun was still out there,” Djokovic said after the match at Rod Laver Arena, which stretched to three hours and 45 minutes.
“Physically and emotionally very draining. Huge round of applause to Fritz for a great performance today and this tournament.“Conversion of the break points was really poor, but I think at the end of the day I managed to break him when it really mattered, the third and the fourth.
”The win was Djokovic’s 33rd consecutive victory in Melbourne, a startling run stretching back to 2018. He did not compete at the event in 2022 due to his coronavirus vaccination status.The 36-year-old came into the match boasting a perfect 8-0 record against the American 12th seed.
And it was business as usual as the Serb — more used to playing night matches in Melbourne — edged a gruelling first set that lasted 84 minutes.
Fritz, 26, had two set points on the Djokovic serve in the 12th game but the champion snuffed them out and dominated the subsequent tie-break to take control.
The top seed left the court after the first set and when he returned he suffered the first break of the match.
Fritz, who survived eight break points in the opening set, fought off seven more points during the second set to pull level.Djokovic finally won a break point at his 16th attempt to wrest control of the third set and broke again to leave himself one set away from victory.The Serb broke for the third time in the match in the sixth game of the fourth set when Fritz tamely dumped a forehand into the net.
A lucky net cord helped the American break back to stay alive but he doubled faulted in the following game to hand the initiative back to Djokovic and this time he made no mistake.Victory leaves the Serb just two wins from standing alone as the only player in history — male or female — to have collected 25 Grand Slam singles titles.
Djokovic, who has never failed to win the Australian Open once he has reached the semi-finals, is level with Margaret Court on 24 majors.But he is already out on his own in men’s tennis — two clear of the injured Rafael Nadal and four ahead of the retired Roger Federer.