Novak Djokovic moved closer to his 10th Australian Open title on Saturday with a 7-6 (7), 6-3, 6-4 victory over Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday in Melbourne, but it wasn't easy.
Djokovic, the fourth seed, battled through a hamstring injury in the third-round match and needed a medical timeout following the tough first set.
"Every point and game mattered," said Djokovic, 35. "The turning point for both players was right from the start. Making an early break was important. I didn't know how I was going to feel physically. I was going up and down. "
Thanks to a service break in the first game of the match, the Serbian took a 5-3 lead in the first set. He had three set points with Dimitrov serving in the ninth game, but the Bulgarian fought back to win and then broke Djokovic's serve in the next game to tie the set.
In the third set, Djokovic broke Dimitrov's serve twice to go up 3-0 before taking his second medical timeout at 4-1. He dropped serve when he returned to the court but held on to advance.
"I thought a double break in the third was going to be enough, but he was locked in. Up until the very last shot, I did not know if I was going to prevail," Djokovic said. "It was an incredible battle. Three sets, over three hours. Let's rest up and prepare for the next one."
Up next for Djokovic is Australian Alex de Minaur, the No. 22 seed, who ousted Benjamin Bonzi of France 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-1.
While Djokovic is chasing his record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title, the run ended for three-time major winner Andy Murray. Coming off an epic-five set match against Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis, Murray couldn't outlast his third-round competition, with Spain's Roberto Bautista-Agut taking a 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4 win.
As the match wore on, Murray clearly felt the effects of two long opening matches in Melbourne that lasted more than 10 hours combined. At the end of the match, he limped off to a standing ovation.
"Always playing Andy is very tough," Bautista Agut said of Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist. "He knows very well how to play a Grand Slam match. I am happy with how I handled the nerves and tension through the match, to play good tennis. I am very happy with the win."
In the fourth round, the Spaniard will face Tommy Paul, who knocked out fellow American Jenson Brooksby 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. In another all-American pairing, J.J. Wolf defeated Michael Mmoh 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
Also advancing were fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia and ninth-seeded Holger Rune of Denmark, who will meet in the fourth round.
Rublev defeated No. 25 seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Rune topped Ugo Humbert of France 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (5).
--Field Level Media