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Djokovic Escapes Fritz To Reach Aussie Open Semis

Jan 23rd 2024

Djokovic escapes Fritz in 4 to reach Aussie Open semis

Djokovic prevails 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in 3 ¾ hours

The ten-time Australian Open champion and world #1 was not at his best when the
fortnight commenced but unearthed it when required. Novak Djokovic played the United
Cup - a mixed team competition – before arriving in Melbourne to defend his title. He
won both round-robin matches but lost in the quarters to Sydney native and world #10,
Alex de Minaur.

Taylor Fritz, the #1 American and world #12 also lost to de Minaur at the United Cup but
has played exceedingly well down under after enduring a first-round five-setter. In the
round of 16, he dispatched last year’s finalist and world #7 Stefanos Tsitsipas in four.
Djokovic led the head-to-head 8-0 including a straight-sets win at the 2023 US Open.
Fritz served first under hot, sunny conditions on Rod Laver Arena. While he opened with
a fantastic forehand down the line, he faced nine deuce and three break points yet
managed to hold when his opponent netted a forehand.

Djokovic missed 4/4 first serves but with three consecutive winners including an ace up
the tee, held at love to level. Fritz made 7/8 first serves including an ace up the tee but
faced triple break point. He battled and held for 2-1 with a deft drop shot and a monster
serve out wide.

(Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Djokovic continued to struggle on serve making just 2/6 yet held to 30 with two winners
off the ground. Fritz opened and closed the fifth with aces to lead 3-2 while Djokovic
made 5/5 first serves including two consecutive aces to level.

The former world #5 opened with a double fault but with five consecutive winners
including another ace, held for 4-3 while Djokovic serving with new balls, donated two
unforced errors yet held for parity.

Fritz missed 8/10 first serves and faced two deuce and double break point but held for
5-4 with an incredible inside-out forehand and a blistering backhand down the middle.
Djokovic unable to capitalize on a bucket of break point opportunities, missed 6/6 first
serves yet held to remain in the set.

Fritz struck two consecutive winners including another ace and held at love for 6-5.
Djokovic serving to stay in the set and force the breaker, faced double set point
following two spectacular winners from Fritz but managed to hold with well-struck
serves and formidable shots off the ground.

The thirty-six-year-old from Serbia raced to a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak and clinched it 7-3
when Fritz netted a forehand. The twenty-four-time grand slam champion served first in
the second and struggled on serve. Despite hitting his fifth ace, he gifted two
consecutive double faults and dumped serve when Fritz nailed a forehand volley.

The twenty-six-year-old from California continued to excel in extended rallies and on
serve. Although he faced two deuce and break point, he struck four winners including
two additional aces to consolidate the break for 2-0.

Djokovic opened the third with a stunning inside-out backhand winner and with three
unreturnable serves including his fifth ace, held at love for 1-2. Fritz pumped yet poised,
made 5/5 first serves including two consecutive aces out wide and held easily to 15 for
3-1 while Djokovic opened with an ace up the tee and with another out wide, held at
love for 2-3.

Fritz opened the sixth with a forehand error and faced deuce and double break point but
held with three consecutive winners including two additional aces while Djokovic made
5/5 first serves including an ace out wide on game point for 3-4.

Fritz dug deep as the set drew to a close. He missed 8/14 first serves and faced four
deuce and three break points but held for 5-3 with two aces and three brilliant backhand

After a little more than two hours, the defending champion was 0/15 on break points.
Serving to stay in the set, he opened with an ace and with three consecutive winners
including another ace, held for 4-5. Fritz limped slightly as he stepped to the line to
serve but with an overhead smash and an ace up the tee, secured the set at love.

Djokovic served first in the third and serve he did; with three additional aces all up the
tee, he held to 15 for 1-0 while Fritz missed 3/6 first serves and dropped serve with a
netted forehand and a winning crosscourt forehand from Djokovic.

The #1 seed threw in his fourteenth ace and consolidated the break at love for 3-0. The
American missed 3/5 first serves but with two exceptional forehand winners from the
forecourt, got on the board.

Djokovic discovered another level with four more winners including three aces to lead 4-
1. Fritz opened the sixth with two astounding winners and with a sweet forehand slice
drop shot, held for 2-4. The Serbian donated a third double fault yet still held to 15 for 5-
2 while Fritz conceded the set after two errors and two winners from his opponent.

Djokovic served first in the fourth and held easily to 15 with a crisp crosscourt
backhand. The 12th seed opened with a splendid crosscourt forehand but faced four
deuce and two break points before eking out the hold with five additional winners
including an ace on game point.

Djokovic made 5/5 first serves including two consecutive aces and held to 15 for 2-1
while Fritz serving with new balls, struck four winners including an ace out wide to level.
Djokovic pummeled his trademark backhand down the line and held easily to 15 while
Fritz committed four consecutive errors and dumped serve. The world #1 failed,
however, to consolidate the break as he faced triple break point and gave it back when
Fritz benefited from a let cord winner.

Fritz opened the eighth with a netted forehand and with two more errors including a
double fault, dropped serve. Djokovic hit his 20th ace, reached double match point, and
converted the first with a fabulous inside-out forehand winner.

While his serve was Mia for most of the first set, the world #1 finished with twenty aces
– four more than Fritz! He won 82% of first and 58% of second serve points and 34% of
first and 52% of second serve return points.

While those stats are more than satisfactory, his percentage of break points converted
was subpar; he converted an abysmal 4/21 while saving 4/6. He will need another gear
if he hopes to defend his title next weekend. His opponent in the penultimate round is a
familiar and worthy adversary.

Jannik Sinner the world #4, has been playing lights-out since the fall of last year. During that
stretch, the twenty-two-year-old Italian defeated Djokovic twice; in round-robin play at
the season-ending championships and in the Davis Cup semifinals.

Djokovic leads the head-to-head 4-2 including the title match at the Nitto ATP Finals in
Turin and with a grand slam final on the line, this promises to be another heavyweight