Novak Djokovic’s dream of a record 10th Australian Open title stayed alive on Thursday as the hampered Serb survived the second round 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-0 against French qualifier Enzo Couacoud.
The win by the fourth-seeded Serb prevented a morale-sapping hat-trick of failure for organaisers, who had to watch as top seed Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Casper Ruud also lost their second-round matches to Americans.
Nadal- now out for up to two months with a torn ligament – was defeated on Wednesday by Mackenzie McDonald while Ruud went down on Thursday to Jenson Brooksby.
The conqueror of Djokovic, Couacaud, is ranked 191 and playing in only his fourth main draw of a major; his lone win came two years ago at Roland Garros.
Djokovic, an anti-vaxx zealot who is fighting a hamstring complaint with a cabinet full of pain killer and other medications, lived to fight again after his battle of three hours.
While also playing his match, Djokovic had to complain to the chair referee about a spectator out of control.
“The guy is completely drunk. He provokes me from the first point. He is not there to watch the match, he just wants to get inside my head. What are you going to do?”
The 35-year-old fourth seed said he is caught in a difficult injury situation.
“I’m worried, I can’t say that I’m not. I have to accept the circumstance and adjust myself and my team.
“I have two choices: leave it or keep going.
“I’m going to try and play and compete. The matches will only get tougher for me from here.
“In 2021 I had similar circumstances in Australia with another muscle (abdominal). Somehow I pushed through and won the tournament.”