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Djokovic destroys Australian rival in title quest

The Serb continued his pursuit of a 10th Australian Open title with a commanding victory over Alex de Minaur in Melbourne

Nine-time tournament winner Novak Djokovic will face Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after the Serb crushed local hero Alex de Minaur in their fourth-round match on Monday.

Djokovic shrugged off any lingering concerns over a hamstring injury as he overpowered the helpless De Minaur in straight sets, 6-2 6-1 6-2, at Rod Laver Arena. Number 22 seed De Minaur had little answer to Djokovic’s dominance as the Serb – seeded fourth this year in Melbourne – won six of the 12 break points he manufactured on his rival’s serve without facing any in return.

Djokovic, 35, was forced to contend with a left hamstring injury in previous rounds in Melbourne, and although his leg was again heavily strapped, the issue did not seem to bother him as he put paid to local hopes – and the odd outbreak of heckling in the crowd – in clinical fashion.

“Obviously I was dealing with an injury, I don’t feel anything today. I thank my medical team, my physio, I thank God. I don’t take anything for granted, so let’s keep it going,” Djokovic said on court after his win.

“I’ve been taking a lot of pills, it’s not ideal… but not those kind of pills, guys, anti-inflammatory pills. Really today was the best day so far and hopefully it stays that way.”

Djokovic saw off the 23-year-old De Minaur in clinical fashion.

©  Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

The Serb will now play fifth seed Rublev in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, after the Russian emerged from a five-set epic against Danish teenager Holger Rune earlier on Monday.

Rublev, 25, admitted after that match that “no one wants to face Novak” in the draw. The Russian has managed to win one of the pair’s three career meetings to date – on clay in Belgrade last year – although Djokovic won both their indoor hardcourt matches, most recently at the ATP Finals in Turin last November.

For Rublev it will be a seventh appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal, and he has failed to progress from any of his previous six. Djokovic, meanwhile, is into the last eight of a Grand Slam for the 54th time and on the 13th occasion in Melbourne. 

Djokovic has returned to Australia after his infamous deportation last year in a row over his vaccine status, which prevented him from defending his title at Melbourne Park. He has picked up where he left off on court, winning the ATP 250 title in Adelaide earlier this month and now extending his unbeaten record at the Australian Open to a remarkable 25 matches.

Djokovic is chasing a 22nd Grand Slam title overall, which would put him level with Rafael Nadal at the top of the all-time list. Should he triumph in Melbourne, Djokovic would also become only the second player alongside Nadal to win 10 or more titles at a single Grand Slam – with Nadal winning 14 crowns on the clay courts of the French Open.     

January 23, 2023 at 04:25PM

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