On a Friday night in Rod Laver Arena, the spectators knew they would likely not see the match end, whether it was because Djokovic would retire or because an 11.30pm curfew ahead of a new five-day lockdown in the state of Victoria was imminent.
Thousands of people enjoying one last night out before a short lockdown cheered, jeered and even occasionally booed from the stands, with Djokovic on the receiving end of the jibes.
With Fritz a break up in the fourth set, as the clock struck 11.30pm, fans were ejected from the stadium as the players suspended play to encourage spectators to leave.
They returned to play in silence, and after the 24-year-old managed to force a fifth and final set, Djokovic was able to find his form again after struggling to move, and claimed a 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 victory over Fritz in front of an empty stadium at 12.20am.
Speaking after the match, Djokovic said it was one of the “most special wins” of his life, adding: “It doesn’t matter what round it is and against who it is, under these kinds of circumstances, to pull this through is definitely something I will remember forever.”
He will now get a chance to face the world No 26 on a hard court once again when the pair face off in Paris-Bercy on Friday (November 5), as Djokovic hunts a record seventh year-end world No 1 finish.