Australian Open: Djokovic battles Couacaud, hamstring and rowdy fans to march on in Melbourne

By Sports Desk January 19, 2023

Novak Djokovic avoided becoming the latest Australian Open seed to fall as he survived an injury scare to see off French qualifier Enzo Couacaud.

After Casper Ruud, Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz were all sent packing earlier on Thursday, the question was whether Djokovic would become the ultimate casualty on a day of shocks.

The nine-time champion was troubled by his left hamstring problem during the second set, which went the way of world number 191 Couacaud, but Djokovic reasserted himself to secure a 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-0 victory on Rod Laver Arena.

The Serbian became increasingly incensed by shouting from the crowd during the match, pinpointing one fan as a chief culprit and telling the umpire during the fourth set: "The guy is drunk out of his mind. I'm asking you what you're you going to do about it. You heard it at least 10 times; I heard it 50 times."

Djokovic appeared to be pointing towards a group in 'Where's Wally?' fancy dress, who were reacting as though they were enjoying the moment before being spoken to by tournament officials.

It was a surprise the match reached a fourth set.

Mauritius-born Couacaud turned his ankle in the fourth game of the contest and retreated to his chair, seemingly in tears as he looked to cover his face with his towel.

The 27-year-old received medical treatment, getting the ankle strapped up, and he gamely battled on, albeit struggling initially.

It was then Djokovic who needed an injury timeout in the second set, going off court when trailing 5-4 and feeling some discomfort in the hamstring that has been troubling him during the last fortnight.

Couacaud took advantage and won the set, but from that point on it became all Djokovic, as he moved through to round three.

Data Slam: Djokovic sets up Dimitrov clash

Next for Djokovic will be a battle with the 27th seed, Grigor Dimitrov. He described the Bulgarian as a good friend and said they were "Balkan brothers". The rivalry on the court has been emphatically one-sided between Djokovic and Dimitrov, though, with nine of their past 10 meetings having gone the way of the Serbian.

Dimitrov's lone win came on clay in Madrid in 2013, while it will be a third grand slam match between the pair, with Djokovic having notched up previous victories at the French Open and Wimbledon.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic– 9/6
Couacaud – 7/2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic– 63/36
Couacaud – 36/32

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic– 7/21
Couacaud – 0/1

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