Injured Novak Djokovic sees off Milos Raonic for 300th Slam win
World No. 1 overcomes pain due to muscle tear to become second male player to reach 300 Slam wins
Reigning champion Novak Djokovic came through a tough examination of his fitness as the top seed beat Canadian powerhouse Milos Raonic 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 yesterday to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Djokovic, who injured a side muscle during a five-set win over Taylor Fritz last Friday and suggested he might not be able to continue, showed hints of discomfort on the way to becoming the second male player to reach 300 Grand Slam match wins.
Fourteenth seed Raonic had never previously taken a set off Djokovic in three previous Grand Slam meetings, so when he snatched the second set, a surprise looked possible.
But Djokovic, bidding for a record-extending ninth title in Melbourne, responded by raising his level and improving his record over Raonic to 12-0.
The Serb's last-eight opponent will be Germany's Alexander Zverev, who beat Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.
After the drama of Friday when Djokovic said he had sustained a "tear" and could not move, this was a relatively routine day at the office for the world No. 1 who has been on painkillers for 48 hours.
"It was good enough to compete, to play, I wouldn't be standing here talking if I wasn't in sufficient condition to get on the court and give myself a chance to win a match," Djokovic said.
"It's not ideal, I've felt better... Didn't have much preparation and didn't hit a tennis ball since two nights ago. There was a cloud of doubt whether I would play, but it's a Grand Slam and I gave everything to have a chance."
Djokovic failed to convert break-points at 3-3 and 4-4 in the opening set and there was one moment of alarm when he was forced wide on the forehand side and struggled to put on the brakes, hurdling a courtside advertising board.
He won the tie-break in clinical fashion though and, when Raonic needed treatment on his right ankle early in the second set, Djokovic appeared to be well in command.
Instead, Raonic began to play some of his best tennis and secured the first service break of the match at 2-2 with a powerful forehand winner.
That proved enough for Raonic to bag the second set, but his victory hopes were soon receding as Djokovic began to swing freely and accelerated through the third set.
Djokovic was stretched in the fourth set, but he broke Raonic's serve at 4-4 when his opponent netted a backhand and clinched victory a game later to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the 12th time.
His 300th Grand Slam match win put him behind only Roger Federer (362) in the men's list.
Earlier, third seed Dominic Thiem, Djokovic's opponent in last year's Australian Open final, was dumped 6-4, 6-0, 6-0 by Grigor Dimitrov.
"I'm not a machine," said the Austrian who struggled to find the intensity with which he had mounted a comeback to beat Nick Kyrgios in five sets in the previous round.
Canadian 20th seed Felix Auger Aliassime seemed to be cruising as well after taking a two-set lead, but was upset by Russian Grand Slam debutant Aslan Karatsev 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. - REUTERS