Novak Djokovic was firing on all cylinders as he dismantled home favourite Alex De Minaur to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the 13th time.
The nine-time champion’s damaged left hamstring has dominated discussion around his chances of triumphing again at Melbourne Park but there were no signs of discomfort here as he stormed to a 6-2 6-1 6-2 victory with a ruthless display.
De Minaur vs Djokovic: Tale of the Tape
|1st serve win percentage
|2nd serve win percentage
|Break points won
|Net points won
|Total points won
Speaking on court, the fourth seed said: “I cannot say ‘I’m sorry you haven’t watched a longer match’. I really wanted to win in straight sets. I thought the first four, five games were quite close.
“I started feeling I guess more loose, more free, to go through the ball and be more aggressive. I kept my focus all the way through and played the best match of this year so far.”
On his hamstring, Djokovic said: “I didn’t feel anything today. Today was great. I thank my medical team, thank God, anybody that really helped me.
“I don’t want to celebrate too early. I know things can change really quickly and I don’t take anything for granted. I’m really pleased today with the way I moved today and the way I hit the ball.”
Asked on Eurosport if his performance “was perfection on a tennis court?” Djokovic replied: “Close to.”
This is the fewest games Novak Djokovic (5) has dropped in an Australian Open match since dropping just four against Lucas Pouille in the semi-finals of the Australian Open 2019.
It was a very uncomfortable evening, though, for De Minaur, the last remaining home singles hope, on Rod Laver Arena as he was outplayed in all areas.
Watched by his girlfriend, British player Katie Boulter, the 23-year-old tried his best to find a way into the contest but, with no big weapons, he was simply unable to hurt Djokovic, who broke serve six times and did not face a single break point himself.
A shell-shocked De Minaur said: “I think what I experienced today was probably Novak very close to his best, I would say. To me, if that’s the level, I think he’s definitely the guy that’s going to take the title.”
Djokovic will next take on fifth seed Andrey Rublev who rallied back from the brink to dump rising star Holger Rune out and book a second quarter-final at Melbourne Park with a see-saw 6-3 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6 (11-9) win.
In a final-set tiebreak of unrelenting tension, Rune saved two match points but was powerless to save the third as Rublev battled back from 5-0 in the 10-point tie-break, sealing the win with a return of serve that clipped the net and popped over, leaving the Dane no chance.
“[Tennis is] not a rollercoaster, it’s like they put a gun to your head,” Rublev said on court. “I think a rollercoaster is a lot easier, man.”
“I never in my life was able to win matches like this, this was the first time in my life I was able to win a match like this.
American 20-year-old Ben Shelton beat compatriot JJ Wolf 6-7 (7-5) 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in a fourth-round match that lasted nearly four hours.
Shelton, who is still in college, said: “It’s definitely a surprise. I got on the plane with no expectations. I know that it’s very hard to adjust to Australia from the United States just with the jet lag, time change and everything.
“Never being out of the United States, I knew it would be a struggle. So I think it maybe has helped me a little bit kind of not having that expectation or the feeling that I have to perform, but being able to just go out there, be myself and play free.”
Tommy Paul, ranked 35, made it three Americans through to the last eight with a 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-5 victory over Andy Murray’s conqueror Roberto Bautista Agut.