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Australian Open: Injured Djokovic, Serena advance to fourth round

Serena Williams (pictured) beat Anastasia Potapova in the third round of the 2021 Australian Open on Friday in Melbourne. Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE
Serena Williams (pictured) beat Anastasia Potapova in the third round of the 2021 Australian Open on Friday in Melbourne. Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka were among the top players to advance at the 2021 Australian Open on Friday in Melbourne. They are now each just one win from quarterfinal appearances at the Grand Slam.

Djokovic had a three-hour, 25-minute marathon match with American Taylor Fritz before he punched his ticket to the fourth round.

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The No. 1 player in the ATP rankings sustained a midsection injury midway through the match and had to take a medical timeout. He then finished off Fritz 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.

Djokovic called the victory "one of the most special wins of [his] life."

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"I just tried to stay in there," Djokovic said in an on-court interview. "I was hopeful that whatever was happening was going to feel better. Toward the end of the fourth set it started to feel better."

Fans had to leave the arena in the middle of the Djokovic-Fritz match after the state of Victoria went into a five-day lockdown due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Fans will not be allowed to return for matches in Melbourne through at least Wednesday.

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Djokovic said that he knows his injury is a muscle tear. He doesn't know if he will be able to recover in time for his next match. The defending Australian Open champion battles Milos Raonic in the fourth round on Sunday for a spot in the quarterfinals.

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Fritz outplayed Djokovic in many areas of the match. He had 24 aces, compared to Djokovic's 15. He also had just one double fault and 45 unforced errors. Djokovic had five double faults and 53 errors.

The American also edged the Serbian 62-52 in winners and 3-1 in return winners. Djokovic converted one more break point than Fritz and edged the American 157-155 in total points.

No. 3 Dominic Thiem and No. 7 Alexander Zverev were among the other top players to advance Friday in the men's singles circuit. Thiem beat Nick Kyrgios in five sets. Zverev beat Adrian Mannarino in straight sets.

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No. 114 Aslan Karatsev upset No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and No. 19 Felix Auger-Aliassime beat No. 12 Denis Shapovalov. Raonic advanced with a four-set win over Marton Fucsovics. Grigor Dimitrov also beat Pablo Carreno Busta.

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Williams -- the No. 11 player in the WTA rankings -- continued her dominant run in Melbourne with a third-consecutive straight-sets victory.

She beat Anastasia Potapova 7-6(5), 6-2 in a 97-minute match at Rod Laver Arena. Williams had nine aces, 19 winners and won five of eight break points in the victory. Potapova had two aces, 18 winners and eight double faults in the loss.

Williams battles No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka in the fourth round on Sunday. She'll face No. 2 Simona Halep or No. 15 Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals if she beats Sabalenka.

"She hits it very hard and has a big power game," Williams told reporters, when asked about Sabalenka. "She is strong, like myself, I think it will be a really good match -- with no crowd."

Sabalenka advanced Friday with a straight-sets victory over American Ann Li. Halep also won in straight sets, with a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Veronika Kudermetova.

Osaka -- ranked No. 3 -- beat Ons Jabeur in her third-round match. She'll face No. 14 Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round on Sunday.

Swiatek, No. 19 Marketa Vondrousova and No. 71 Su-Wei Hsieh also advanced with third-round victories.

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Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini will be among the top players in action on Saturday in Melbourne.

Moments from Serena Williams' career

Serena Williams returns the ball to her sister, Venus, during their match at the Lipton Tennis Championship in Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 28, 1998. Venus Williams, defeated her sister 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Photo by Susan Knowles/UPI | License Photo

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