Novak Djokovic booked himself a spot into the 2023 Australian Open fourth round in a late night victory at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.
The Serbian world No. 5 battled past Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 to become one match closer to claiming his 10th Australian Open singles title and tying a record of 22 Grand Slam titles won with Rafael Nadal.
"Just found a way, I guess, to win in such an exciting match, big battle, over three hours for three sets," Djokovic said after the match. "If I lost one of these sets, we could have gone really the distance. God knows how long."
However, it was not a straightforward win for the 35-year-old who continues to struggle with a hamstring injury on court round after round.
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"Well, it kind of always starts well in last few matches, including this one, and then some movement happens and then it gets worse," Djokovic said. "Pills kick in, some hot cream and stuff. That works for a little bit, then it doesn't, then works again. It's really a roller coaster, honestly."
After the win, Djokovic admitted that he wasn't sure he would be able to play the 2023 Australian Open with the amount of pain he was in.
"Obviously every season counts now when you come to probably the last stage, quarter of your career," he said. "You start appreciating and valuing every single tournament more because you know you might not have many left in the tank."
Something that tennis fans are foreign to is the fact that if Djokovic does not claim the Australian Open, there will be a brand-new men's singles champion this year as the Serbian is the last major singles champion left in the men's draw.
The Serb next faces a speedy Australian in Alex de Minaur in their first head-to-head on Tuesday, which will likely be a night session match.
"It's a big challenge of playing an Aussie guy here in front of his home crowd," Djokovic said. "But I've had experiences before. I played Lleyton Hewitt here. I played some big Aussie players, so I know how that feels."