Djokovic defied injury in Australian Open win but Murray bows out

Novak Djokovic’s hamstring snapped as the favorite battled into the last 16 of the Australian Open on Saturday, but Andy Murray’s heroic career was over.

Meanwhile, heavy hitting Aryna Sabalenka polished her title credentials as she moved up, along with several other female seeds.

The ailing Djokovic was straining and needed treatment twice for a troublesome left hamstring before he defeated Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena.

The Serbian will face Alex de Minaur’s home hope for a place in the quarter-finals as he closes in on a 10th title at Melbourne Park and 22nd Grand Slam title.

“Obviously I didn’t know how it was going to feel physically, it was just up and down,” said Djokovic.

“It was an incredible fight, three sets over three hours. Let’s rest and get ready for the next set.”

Djokovic’s teammate, 35-year-old Murray, will not join him in the next round, with the Briton finishing at 4:05 a.m. to eventually catch up.

The former top seed Murray was clearly feeling the effects of his five-set saga in the second round, which began on Thursday but ended in the wee hours of Friday.

Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, seeded 24, won 6-1 6-7 (7/9) 6-3 6-4 and faces unseeded American Tommy Paul.

“I’ve given it my all in the last three matches – I’m proud of that,” said Murray.

“But I’m also disappointed because I put a lot of work in at the beginning of this year and I played well enough to have a really good run, and I’m doing deep.”

Also in the men’s draw, fifth seed Andrei Rublev stormed into a confrontation with Holger Rohn – then thanked his losing opponent Dan Evans for giving him the banana mid-match.

The Russian crushed the British 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the fourth round for the third time.

The young Dane will face Rohn for a place in the quarter-finals after the ninth seed survived a bad fall to defeat unseeded Frenchman Hugo Humbert 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7/5).

His friend and 25th seed Evans threw a banana at Rublev during his change when he ran out.

“I didn’t ask him, I asked the ball boy, but Danny asked for bananas earlier and he had two, so he just said ‘take it,’ so I caught him,” said Rublev.

In two All-American matches, Jeffrey Wolf edged past Michael Moh in three sets while Paul did equally light work on Jenson Broxby.

– Ominous Sabalenka –

Sabalenka is building a head of strength in her quest to win her first Grand Slam title.

The fifth seed, Elise Mertens, seeded 26th, fell 6-2 6-3 to set up a date with Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.

30th seed Karolina Pliskova and 23rd seed Zhang Shuai also qualified in straight sets on day six at Melbourne Park, and they will meet in the fourth round.

Sabalenka tries not to get carried away.

The 24-year-old Minsk-born wowed the Margaret Court Arena crowd for backing Belgium’s Mertens over her, but said she was enjoying the trip in week two.

“As for the favourite, I’m on that favourite… I mean, it’s really good to be there,” said the Belarusian, who hasn’t dropped a set yet.

“But I better focus on myself, on my game, make sure my dream will come true.”

Bencic also didn’t drop a set in Melbourne. The Swiss 12th seed defeated unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi 6-2 7-5.

Also advancing to the fourth round was 17-year-old Linda Frohvertova, who beat fellow Czech Marketa Vondrousova in three sets. She faces Donna Vekic from Croatia.

“It feels very surreal,” the teen told reporters.

“It feels incredible. I’m so happy and excited to be able to say, ‘Hello week two!’ “

French fourth seed Caroline Garcia fought back after a disastrous first set to beat world number 158 Laura Siegemund 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

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