Novak Djokovic became just the third player in tennis history to play 100 singles matches at the Australian Open on Friday night. The World No.1 battled to a 6-3 6-3 7-6 (7-2) win over 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry, but fell foul of the umpire early in the third set.
Djokovic was on the brink of serving when he was called for a time violation by the chair umpire, after the Serbian star failed to hit his serve before the shot-clock expired. Djokovic was clearly perturbed by the umpire's intervention and threw his head back in annoyance, but re-focused and kept going.
CAN'T BE SERIOUS: John McEnroe shredded over Alex de Minaur gaffe
Nick Kyrgios, who was in commentary for Eurosport, took exception to the umpire's actions. "Not necessary," he cried. "It's ridiculous...it's like they get bored and just want to say something other than the score."
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 19, 2024
The serve clock has always been a contentious issue in professional tennis. While some believe the umpires should follow the rules and call players out for violating it, others like Kyrgios clearly think it's a non-issue that shouldn't be so stringently applied.
In Djokovic's case, he probably had a right to be annoyed considering he was literally about to hit his serve when the umpire stepped in. The 24-time grand slam champion advanced to the fourth round with more ease than his previous encounters, after dropping a set each to Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin.
Novak Djokovic opens up on 'life journey' at Australian Open
Friday night's match was his 100th in singles at the Australian Open, with only Serena Williams (105) and Roger Federer (117) playing more. The 10-time Australian Open champion described Friday's performance as the best of his tournament so far, and was in a reflective mood during his on-court interview.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 19, 2024
"I've been blessed to go through a very interesting life journey," he said. "Coming from Serbia during the 90s wasn't easy for my family, and my parents had to endure a lot of adversity economically and in every sense in order for me to live my dream.
“To allow me to play the sport that still is very expensive for our country, but at that time it was super expensive compared to some other team sports. I chose to play it and my parents did everything they possibly can to provide the conditions and the possibilities for me to be able to train.
"I wasn’t travelling for a couple of years in the junior days because of obviously (a) lack of resources, war, embargo, lot of different things. At the end of the day, when I reflect on all of the journey that I’ve been through and that we have all been through, as a family and people of Serbia, it has been honestly an incredible blessing to be here. I am very grateful for that.”
The 36-year-old has been under the weather this week and once again appeared to be battling sickness on Friday night. He even copped a sledge from a member of the crowd about it. "It's kind of a regular viral infection that I've been through," he told reporters in his press conference. "Now it's in its last stages and I still have some secret(ion) coming out."
The win gave Djokovic 31-straight victories at Melbourne Park. He will face 20th seed Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round after the Frenchman stormed back to beat American Ben Shelton 7-6 (7-4) 1-6 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 6-4.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.