MELBOURNE (AFP) - Novak Djokovic’s hamstring just about held up as the hot favorite reached the Australian Open last 16 on Saturday, as Andy Murray’s heroic run ended in typically defiant style.
Hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka meanwhile burnished her title credentials as she barrelled into round four along with several other women’s seeds.
An ailing Djokovic had heavy strapping and needed treatment twice on his troublesome left hamstring before defeating Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.
The Serb will face home hope Alex de Minaur for a place in the quarter-finals as he closes on a 10th Melbourne Park crown and a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title.
“Obviously, I didn’t know how I’m going to feel physically, it was going up and down,” said Djokovic.
“It was an incredible battle, three sets over three hours. Let’s rest up and prepare for the next one.”
Djokovic’s fellow 35-year-old Murray will not join him in the next round, however, as the Briton’s 4:05 am finish eventually caught up with him.
Former number one Murray was clearly feeling the effects of his epic five-setter in round two, which started on Thursday but ended in the early hours of Friday.
The 24th-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut won 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 6-4 and faces unseeded Tommy Paul of the United States in the last 16.
Also in the men’s draw, fifth seed Andrey Rublev surged into a clash with Holger Rune -- then thanked his beaten opponent Dan Evans for giving him a banana mid-match.
The Russian crushed the Briton 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to make the fourth round for a third time.