Djokovic forced to work for it
Fight breaks out after match outside arena
MELBOURNE - Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived a spirited encounter with Bosnian-born American Amer Delic in the Australian Open today before crowd trouble flared outside.
The 21-year-old Serb lost a set for the first time in the tournament and had to fend off two set points in the fourth before beating Delic, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
Moments after Djokovic and Delic embraced at the net, smiled, and waved to all parts of the crowd in Rod Laver Arena, screams, water bottles, and plastic chairs were hurled back and forth between the Bosnian and Serb fans who had been watching the match live on a big TV screen next to the arena.
One Bosnian girl was hit in the head and stumbled from the area on the arms of friends as police and security staff rushed to separate the rivals. The loud, angry scuffle was over within two minutes, and police took many of the participants to another area for questioning.
"They started it. They threw the first chair and knocked our girl down and kept throwing things at her," one Bosnian man said before he was taken away a police officer. Victoria state police and organizers had no immediate comment.
There was no animosity on court.
"Of course, I have a big respect for Amer," Djokovic said, to loud cheers from the crowd. "He absolutely deserves your applause and even more.
"He has one of the biggest serves on tour. It was very difficult for me to read."
No. 127-ranked Delic got into the draw as a lucky loser from qualifying when Nicolas Kiefer withdrew because of an ankle injury. Delic rallied to win two five-set matches to make the third round, his best run at a major.
In the tiebreaker, Djokovic challenged a call and stopped a rally, risking losing the point if he was wrong.
He wasn't, forcing a replay and winning the point when Delic double faulted.
"I might have looked confident, but I was not. It was very lucky," said Djokovic, who beat Roger Federer in the semifinals last year and claimed his first major. "Sometimes you need luck."
No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina beat Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-3, 7-5.
The 20-year-old del Potro won the Auckland title coming into Melbourne and is on a seven-match winning streak.
No. 19 Marin Cilic of Croatia had an upset 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain.
On the women's side, Olympic silver medalist Dinara Safina reached the fourth round for the first time in seven trips with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 25 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova also advanced to the Open fourth round.
No. 7 Zvonareva beat Italy's Sara Errani, 6-4, 6-1, and No. 10 Petrova moved on when Kazakhstan's Galina Voskoboeva retired with back pain after losing the first set, 6-1.
In the biggest upset so far at the season's first major, sixth-seeded Venus Williams lost, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, last night in the second round to Carla Suarez Navarro, a 20-year-old Spaniard ranked No. 46.
Williams was broken while serving for the match and dropped the last five games.
It means there will be no Williams vs. Williams showdown in the semifinals. Second-seeded Serena Williams advanced, 6-3, 7-5, over Argentina's Gisela Dulko.