MELBOURNE: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic look destined to collide for the 46th time before they leave here, where they own a total of 11 titles. While history favours the Serb, his left hip might not. At the end of the first week, they look in good shape to get out of the fourth round on Monday and stay on course for just a fourth semi-final showdown, where Djokovic has prevailed 3-0 on his way to winning a record six titles.
Federer’s only win over him here was 11 years ago in the fourth round. But he is the defending champion. Above all, he is Federer, having reinvented himself at 36 like no other player in the history of the game surely could have done.
In the cool of the evening on day six – after a three-day heatwave that scorched the field and common-sense thinking – Federer, the defending champion, took just under two hours to beat Richard Gasquet for the 17th time in 19 matches. That pitches him into what should be a straightforward win over the unseeded Hungarian Márton Fucsovics, a three-set winner over the similarly lightly regarded Nic Kicker of Argentina.
Djokovic put a shaky start to the tournament behind him, dismissing the 21st seed, Albert Ramos-Viñolas for the loss of eight games in two hours and 21 minutes. He has a tougher challenge in the next round against Chung Hyeon, now the third Korean to reach the fourth round of a slam, after he surprised everyone but himself by upsetting the fourth seed, Alexander Zverev, in five sets.
Djokovic described the courtside treatment for his left hip as nothing major. “I wanted to use the medical timeout because I needed it,” he said, “but at the same time I knew it was nothing major that could potentially raise the question mark on whether I can continue playing or not.” That possibility has hung over him since the start of the tournament, but has centred on his right elbow, which kept him out after he went out of Wimbledon on day nine last summer, and almost prevented him from returning here, where he has had so much success.
He was a little defensive when pressed on the nature of the injury. “I played a long match against Gaël [Monfils] a few days ago. This didn’t happen too many times in my career that I have maybe some tension in the muscles or whatever, some kind of physical challenges. Agencies
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