Djokovic into Australian Open quarter-finals as big names win easy

The Serb next meets Taylor Fritz after the American beat last year's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas

Reuters
Published : 21 Jan 2024, 08:03 AM
Updated : 21 Jan 2024, 08:03 AM

Novak Djokovic flirted with a rare "triple bagel" and Aryna Sabalenka produced yet another powerful performance as the defending champions swept into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday.

American fourth seed Coco Gauff also rattled through her match in double quick time and while she was only on court for an hour, the US Open champion showed she has all the weapons to win a second Grand Slam title.

Djokovic, playing in an unfamiliar rare daytime match, blanked Adrian Mannarino in the opening two sets and threatened to become only the sixth player to win 6-0 6-0 6-0 in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

However, the Frenchman salvaged some pride in the third set, leaving Djokovic with a 6-0 6-0 6-3 victory, the Serb's 32nd straight match win at his favourite stomping ground.

It also earned the world number one a 58th Grand Slam quarter-final berth, equalling the all-time record of Swiss maestro Roger Federer.

Djokovic said he was almost glad when Mannarino got on the board in the third set.

"I almost felt like it's good to give away the game, just to be able to reset and refocus, because the tension was growing as the match progressed without him winning a game," he told reporters.

"Of course, it's tough for him, but also for me to be able to not think about that ... I was happy that got that out of the way, 1-1 third set, then focused on what I need to do to close out the match."

The Serb next meets Taylor Fritz after the American beat last year's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(3) 5-7 6-3 6-3 to reach the last eight for the first time.

'PRETTY EASY'

While Djokovic is seeking an 11th Australian Open title and 25th Grand Slam overall to surpass Margaret Court, Sabalenka is a defending major champion for the first time and the second seed was full of confidence after beating Amanda Anisimova 6-3 6-2.

The field lost top seed Iga Swiatek on Saturday and Sabalenka will fancy her chances even more as she bids to become the first woman to retain the Melbourne Park title since fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in 2012-13.

"I think I feel stronger than last year," said Sabalenka, who is yet to drop a set and takes on 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva or ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova in the next round.

"So far I feel good. Hopefully I can keep it up."

Gauff is also new to the Grand Slam winners' club after her home triumph at the U.S. Open and the American was happy to sail through without having to endure the same kind of "dogfights" she faced at Flushing Meadows.

The 19-year-old outclassed unseeded Pole Magdalena Frech 6-1 6-2 in only 63 minutes for her ninth straight victory after she successfully defended her Auckland title this month.

"I don't feel uncooked at all. I would love for every match to go pretty easy. I know that's not the case," Gauff said.

"Yeah, at the US Open, every match I won was like pretty much a dogfight. I don't know if that's the ideal way to win a slam because you have to last seven matches.

"I think I had the physical and mental ability to do that."

Up next for the American is Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk, who eased past Russian Maria Timofeeva 6-2 6-1.

Fourth seed Jannik Sinner is facing Russian Karen Khachanov with the winner set to play either local hope Alex de Minaur or fifth seed Andrey Rublev, who square off in the evening session.