Novak Djokovic’s hamstring nearly held when the hot favorite took on the round of 16 of the Australian Open on Saturday, but Andy Murray’s heroic run was over.
The tough Arina Sobolenko, meanwhile, polished her titular titles by forging ahead along with several other seeded women.
The ailing Djokovic had heavy belts and required treatment for a troubled left hamstring twice before he defeated Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4 at the Rod Laver Arena.
The Serb will face home hope Alex de Minaur for a place in the quarterfinals as he closes in on Melbourne Park’s 10th crown and a record 22nd Grand Slam title.
“Obviously I didn’t know how I would feel physically, everything fluctuated,” Djokovic said.
“It was an incredible fight, three sets in three hours. Let’s rest and prepare for the next one.”
However, Djokovic’s fellow Murray, 35, will not join him in the next round as the Briton finished at 4:05 am, eventually catching up with him.
Former number one Murray was clearly feeling the effects of his epic five-set throw in the second round, which started on Thursday but ended early on Friday.
Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut with the 24th seed won 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 6-4 and faced the unseeded Tommy Paul of the USA.
“I gave everything I had in the last three matches – I’m very proud of that,” Murray said.
“But I’m also disappointed because at the beginning of this year I worked hard and played well enough to have a really good result, a deep result.”
Also in the men’s draw, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev took on Holger Rune and then thanked his defeated opponent Dan Evans for giving him a banana in the middle of the match.
The Russian defeated the Briton 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 and advanced to the fourth round for the third time.
He will take on Danish teenager Rune for a spot in the quarter-finals after the ninth seed survived a nasty fall to beat unseeded Frenchman Hugo Humbert 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).
His friend and 25th seed Evans threw a banana to Rublev on the switch as he ran out.
“I didn’t ask him, I asked for the ball boy, but Danny asked for bananas before and he had two, so he just said ‘take’ and I caught them,” Rublev said.
In two All-American games, Jeffrey Wolfe beat Michael Mmoh in three sets, while Paul just as easily dealt with Jenson Brooksby.
– Sinister Sobolenko –
Sobolenko is gaining momentum in pursuit of the first Grand Slam title.
The No. 5 Belarusian beat 26th seed Eliza Mertens 6:2, 6:3 and set up a clash with Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.
Karolina Pliskova, who placed 30th, and Zhang Shuai, who placed 23rd, also went in straight sets on the sixth day at Melbourne Park and will fight in the fourth round.
Sobolenko tries not to get carried away.
The 24-year-old Minsk native teased the crowd at the Margaret Court Arena for supporting Belgian Mertens, but said she was enjoying her second week’s trip.
“About the favorite, that I’m on this list of favorites… I mean, it’s really good that I’m there,” said the Belarussian, who hasn’t dropped a set yet.
“But I’d rather focus on myself, on my game, make sure my dream comes true.”
Bencic also went undefeated in a set in Melbourne. The Swiss, in 12th place, edged out unseeded Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-2, 7-5.
17-year-old Linda Frukhvirtova also advanced to the fourth round, beating her Czech Marketa Vondrousova in three sets. She will face Donna Vekic from Croatia.
“It seems pretty surreal,” the teenager told reporters.
“It’s an incredible feeling. I am so happy and excited that I can say, “Hey, second week!”
Fourth seed Caroline Garcia of France fought back after a disastrous first set, beating world No. 158 Laura Siegemund 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.