Former champion Novak Djokovic added an apparent muscle strain in his lower back to conceabout his problem elbow but still overpowered Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 6-3 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday.
After holding serve to lead 2-1 in the second set, the 14th seed took a medical time-out and lay down on Margaret Court Arena as a trainer worked feverishly on his lower back.
The injury did little to restrict the six-time champion Serb as he returned to break the 21st seed in the next game before rolling on to a fuss-free victory in two hours and 21 minutes.
Djokovic will face South Korea’s young gun Chung Hyeon in an intriguing intergenerational battle for a place in the quarterfinals.
BERDYCH OVERPOWERS DEL POTRO Not many players overpower Juan Martin del Potro but Tomas Berdych did just that to win 6-3 6-3 6-2 and reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the 10th time on Saturday.
Del Potro arrived in Melbourne with high hopes having re-entered the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2014 but was no match for the 19th-seeded Czech.
“Maybe it’s the good air here,” Berdych said on Hisense Arena to explain his consistency in the year’s first slam.
Berdych struck 52 winners on his way to setting up a clash with Italian Fabio Fognini.
“I think he was just better than me today,” del Potro, who had led 5-3 in their previous meetings, told reporters.
“He hit very hard, he served very well and played a smart game. He deserved to win. No excuses today.”
ZVEREV COLLAPSES TO DEFEAT BY RELENTLESS CHUNG
Chung Hyeon became the first South Korean man ever to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open with a five-set upset win over fourth seed Alexander Zverev on Saturday.
The 58th-ranked Chung beat a top-five ranked opponent for the first time with his 5-7, 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory in 3hr 22min on Rod Laver Arena.
He will face either six-time champion Novak Djokovic or Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Monday’s fourth round.
Chung’s feat also makes him only the third South Korean player – man or woman – to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam.
“It was really tough, he is a really good player and we know how to play each other,” said the glasses-wearing 21-year-old, who trained in the heat of Thailand before coming to Melbourne.
“I played Novak two or three years ago, so if he wins tonight I just want to enjoy things on the court.”
It was another disappointing exit from a Grand Slam for the highly-ranked Zverev, whose game fell apart in the final set and was issued with a warning for smashing his racquet in frustration after a service break.
While he won five titles and was one of just four players to beat Roger Federer last year, he has yet to get beyond the fourth round at a Grand Slam.
To rub salt in the wounds, it was a Zverev family double for Chung who eliminated older brother Mischa in the first round of the tournament.
Zverev got off to a quick start to hold three set points with a backhand cross court and took the opening set in 44 minutes when Chung netted a forehand.
But Chung, who defeated Russian Andrey Rublev to claim his first title at the Next Gen ATP finals in Milan last year, levelled the set scores with a tiebreaker win after holding three set points when the German netted a forehand.
Zverev hit the front with a break in the third game on the way to taking the third set but Chung would not go away.
The South Korean took the match into a fifth set with a booming ace and Zverev handed over a break in the opening game of the deciding set with a double fault on triple break point.
Zverev was given a racquet abuse warning by the chair umpire after slamming his racquet into the court in frustration and suffering a second service break to trail 3-0 as his game fell away.
THIEM EASES INTO FOURTH ROUND
Austria’s fifth seed Dominic Thiem reached the round of 16 with a straight sets win over Frenchman Adrian Mannarino on Saturday.
Thiem downed the 26th-seed 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in 2hr 8min on Margaret Court Arena and will face either German Maxmilian Marterer or American Tennys Sandgren for a place in the quarterfinals.
The Austrian has now reached the round of 16 at his last six Grand Slams.
Thiem showed no ill-effects of his five set win over American qualifier Denis Kudla in the second round in fierce heat on Thursday.
The victory took his record over Mannarino to 7-0
AMERICA’S SANDGREN REACHES LAST 16 AT OPEN
American Tennys Sandgren won only his third Grand Slam match to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open on Saturday.
The 97th-ranked Sandgren got past German Maxmilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) in just under three hours on Show Court Two.
He will now line up against Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem on Monday for a place in the quarterfinals.
Sandgren upset former champion Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets in the third round in the biggest win of his career on Thursday.