Novak Djokovic keeps on having trouble with his hamstring, but he also just keeps on winning. Impressively so, too. Keep your Monday night free when Alex de Minaur takes on the champ.
If Novak Djokovic knocks the last remaining Aussie hero out of the Australian Open, he can thank his friends in high places for giving him a helping hand.
Twelve months after he was deported from Australia because he refused to get vaccinated against Covid, Djokovic is being given the full red carpet treatment this time.
On Monday he will play Australia’s Alex de Minaur in the fourth round after Djokovic beat Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 6-3 6-4.
And the odds are already heavily stacked in the Serbian’s favour, thanks to his powerful pals.
While the venue and time of the match have not yet been announced, it’s a sure bet it will take place at night on Rod Laver Arena – because that’s Djokovic’s favourite court.
And what Djokovic wants, Djokovic gets.
“I love the conditions here, particularly the night sessions,” Djokovic said.
“It’s played really well for me, for my style of tennis.
“And I guess the more you win on the court, the more confident you feel next time you step on the court.”
Although he is only seeded fourth, the nine-time Australian Open champion is the only player in the tournament – male or female – to be given the prime-time slot for each of the three rounds played so far.
Not only that, Tennis Australia even arranged an exhibition match for him at Rod Laver Arena last week, against Nick Kyrgios.
And just before his match against Dimitrov, Djokovic held a private practice session behind closed doors on the centre court – while everyone else has to be content warming up on Melbourne Park’s outside courts.
But the extra benefits don’t stop there.
The Aussie Open boss Craig Tiley has even told security to kick out any spectators who boo Djokovic during any of his matches.
So when Djokovic complained to the umpire about four fans – who were dressed in ‘Where’s Wally’ costumes – it was no surprise when they were promptly booted out of the stadium.
With Djokovic now playing an Aussie in the next round, the allegiances of organisers and security could be put to the ultimate test.
De Minaur is hugely popular with Australian tennis fans so the whole stadium – and the country – are likely to get behind him when he takes on the moody Djokovic.
It’s been almost half a century since a local has won the tournament and with memories of Ash Barty’ inspiring win last year still fresh, it would be un-Australian for anyone to be banned for cheering the Demon over the Joker.
“Obviously de Minaur is one of the quickest guys on tour, if not the quickest,” Djokivic said.
“He’s got Lleyton Hewitt in his corner, a multiple grand slam winner, that’s a great team. I don’t know how many of you will be on my side … but I look forward to it.”
Originally published as Australian Open 2023: Novak Djokovic reaches fourth round after defeating Grigor Dimitrov