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Novak Djokovic defeated Grigor Dimitrov (7/6 6/3 6/4) in the third round of the Australian Open, on Saturday, the 21st of January in Melbourne.

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The Serbian arrived in Australia as the main favorite for the first Grand Slam of the year. Already won nine times, this tournament has always been successful for him. Nevertheless, he hasn’t played his matches without being worried. As he injured his hamstring, Novak Djokovic can’t move as he’d like. Even if he managed to win this match, the next rounds might be more complicated.

First set : a long battle

Grigor Dimitrov got broken early in the first set. Novak Djokovic didn’t give him any respite. Each of his strikes put his opponent in a difficult position. His strategy was crystal clear: to avoid being in a defensive position in order to protect his leg: 2/0. Novak Djokovic’s game plan worked perfectly. His opponent multiplied sliced backhands which let him enough time to adjust his attacks. The fifth player of the world was never worried during his games of serve : 5/3. Novak Djokovic didn’t drop his baseline; he hit most of his balls inside the court. Only Grigor Dimitrov’s struck flat backhands took time away from Novak Djokovic: 5/4. The Serbian only had to serve for the set. After a string of unforced errors, he gave to break to his opponent: 5/5. While Novak Djokovic won a love game, the fifth player of the world had to erase a set point. After a 200 km/h serve, he clinched a tiebreak. Novak Djokovic easily reached the score of 4-1 after two unforced errors from the Bulgarian. The latter caught up by playing a constructed forward tennis: 5/5. Both players went head-to-head: 7/7. A 23 shots rally gave a new set point to Novak Djokovic. He converted this opportunity thanks to a short cross court volley – before falling to the ground.

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Second set : an easy win for Novak Djokovic

During the second set, the Serbian player seemed to have let go of his strategy. Standing three meters behind his baseline, he played a less impactful tennis. Nevertheless, his extraordinary defensive abilities enabled him to win his first games of serve: 2/1. In the fourth game, Novak Djokovic had three break points. Grigor Dimitrov saved all of them thanks to a huge first serve and deep balls: 2/2. The Serbian showed his will to come to the net more often. He played a few serves-and-volleys and more dropshots. This strategy allowed him to get a break: 4/2. Grigor Dimitrov lacked consistency to worry his opponent. He gave up the second set: 3/6.

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Third set : a chaotic end to the game

The last set of the encounter was chaotic. Novak Djokovic got an early break. Careful with his leg, he didn’t move freely. To have more time in the rallies, he multiplied sliced backhands. After a game of more than nine minutes, Novak Djokovic confirmed his break : 2/0. The two players then adopted completely different patterns of play. The Bulgarian wouldn’t stand back to attack his opponent with every ball. The latter played several meters behind his baseline – waiting for Grigor Dimitrov to make an error. This strategy was successful to Novak Djokovic. He won a double break point after a new fault from the 28th player of the world: 3/0. Then followed a series of three games where the servers were put to the test. Grigor Dimitrov won his opponent’s serve game thanks to astonishing returns : 3/1. Novak Djokovic created a gap again by winning a love game : 4/1. The sixth game went on with the same dynamic. After an intense 28 shots rally lost by the Serbian – after which he fell to the ground – his opponent got a new break point. It was offered by a double fault: 4/2. This match finally got back to normal. Both players won their games of serve: 5/4. Novak Djokovic served for the match. Each at the end of their strength, they called on the public to cheer them up. Thanks to really good serves, the Serbian got two match points. The first one was enough: 6/4.

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The third round of the Australian Open was a real test for Novak Djokovic. Uncertain because of his leg injury, each match is a challenge. He has brilliantly taken up this one. Despite the constant aggressiveness of Grigor Dimitrov, the 21 Grand Slams winner, didn’t cave in. He managed to altern between rises to the net, a defensive position and explosive forehands. The Bulgarian never had a chance in this match because of his too many unforced errors. In search of winners, he took unnecessary risks.

Australian Open : Novak Djokovic wins against Grigor Dimitrov

Novak Djokovic’s next opponent is Alex De Minaur. This encounter is full of promises. As the Australian is very fast on the court, the Serbian’s leg should be put to the test. Will he have the physical abilities to reach a 53rd Grand Slam quarter-final? Answer on Monday, the 22nd of January at 9h00 am.

Marnie Abbou

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