Novak Djokovic will have to fight off a nagging hamstring and the home crowd when he plays Alex de Manor on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
In the women’s draw, Aryna Sabalenka faces a stern test of her title credentials when she takes on Olympic champion and 12th seed Belinda Bencic.
Djokovic would normally be the hot favorite at Melbourne Park, where the former world number one is chasing a 10th Australian Open crown and 22nd major title.
But the 35-year-old from Serbia has struggled with a left hamstring injury since arriving at the tournament.
He had a heavy strain on his thigh and required medical treatment in his three-set third-round victory over 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Djokovic will also need to deal with what is bound to be a partisan home crowd at the 15,000-capacity Rod Laver Arena.
There’s also the fear of the unknown — Djokovic and 22nd seed De Manor have never played each other before.
“Obviously it’s a big challenge for an Australian guy to play in front of his home crowd,” Djokovic said.
“I’m sure the atmosphere will be electric and he’ll have a lot of support, and he’ll be ready to try and win the match.”
Djokovic, who could return to the top of the world rankings if he wins the title, added: “The fact that I’ve never faced him is challenging for both me and him.”
Also in the men’s draw, which has lost six of its top 10 seeds, Russia’s Andrey Rublev plays Danish teenager Holger Rooney in a clash between the fifth and ninth seeds.
Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut will face unseeded Tommy Paul of the United States, while Americans Ben Shelton and JJ Wolf will face each other in the last 16.
The women’s draw has been similarly rocked by a series of shocks.
Fifth seed Sabalenka of Belarus will be hoping she will not be another victim against Switzerland’s Benchick.
Neither has dropped a set in the first Grand Slam of the year, but something has to give.
Fourth seed Caroline Garcia of France will have to beat unseeded Magda Linnet of Poland.
Also, former number one Karolina Pliskova is playing against China’s Zhang Shuai.
Czech rising star Linda Frovirtova, who is just 17, will be hoping to burnish her top-level credentials against Croatia’s Donna Vec.
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