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Ailing Novak Djokovic wins in Australia, Americans keep rolling

Jan 13, 2023; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a shot during an exhibition practice match against Nick Kyrgios of Australia on Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park. Mandatory Credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round, overcoming injury and inebriated fans in a nighttime win that also casts doubt on his next match.

The Serbian won his 23rd consecutive match at Rod Laver Arena and will play Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the third round after taking down France’s Enzo Couacaud, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-0.

Djokovic landed 63 winners but labored heavily. He said the ball is slower in cooler temperatures this year at the Australian Open, and his painful, heavily wrapped and problematic strained left hamstring didn’t help matters.

“To be honest, it’s not good at all,” Djokovic said of taking several breaks to stretch the muscle. “Look, I’ll take it day-to-day. … I’ll ask God to help me, hope that I’ll be able to recover and be ready for the next match.”

Djokovic’s serve was interrupted by boisterous fans and screaming multiple times, but he smiled and replied “thank you” while preparing to serve.

“Little bit of everything tonight. Just glad to get through this type of match,” Djokovic said. “That’s Grand Slam tennis at night.”

No. 2 seed Casper Ruud of Norway was eliminated by Jenson Brooksby, one of eight American men to reach the third round. Brooksby surged ahead but dropped the third set before winning 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2.

“I knew today was a match I could win. I just approached this match like any other,” Brooksby said after the three-hour, 55-minute match.

Energetic 20-year-old American Ben Shelton became a fan favorite during his 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 7-5 second-round win over Chile’s Nicolas Jarry. Shelton entered the match having outlasted China’s top-ranked male, Zhizhen Zhang, in a five-set nailbiter.

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev of Russia stopped his match with Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori to speak with courtside officials because of heckling from fans holding a Ukrainian flag. Rublev won 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 and advanced to face Britain’s Daniel Evans.

–Field Level Media