Djokovic not sure if he can keep playing at Australian Open

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Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating United States' Talyor Fritz in their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE – Novak Djokovic said he tore a muscle during a fall in his five-set victory in the Australian Open's third round and might need to pull out of the tournament.

His opponent, American Taylor Fritz, wasn't so sure. He figured Djokovic definitely will be back out there Sunday to continue his pursuit of a ninth championship at Melbourne Park and 18th Grand Slam title overall.

“If he can play like he played in the fifth, I don’t see why he wouldn’t play,” Fritz said. “He’ll beat pretty much anyone.”

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic seemed to be cruising along with a two-set lead Friday night when his left foot gave out from under him as he tried to change directions and he slipped awkwardly on the white “MELBOURNE” lettering at the back of the blue court. He took a medical timeout for treatment on his side and later was helped more by a trainer. Fritz got back into the match, before Djokovic eventually won 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.

When it ended, Djokovic puffed his chest, held his arms out wide and bellowed, his voice echoing through an empty and otherwise silent Rod Laver Arena. The match began with spectators present, but they were forced to leave a little past 11:30 p.m. — about an hour before Djokovic wrapped up his win — because a local COVID-19 lockdown began at midnight.

During an on-court interview, he was subdued.

And pessimistic.

“I know it’s a tear, definitely, of the muscle. So I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to step out onto the court or not,” said Djokovic, who is supposed to face 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic with a quarterfinal berth on the line.