MELBOURNE, Australia. It took Novak Djokovic about a week to go from worrying about whether he could just play a match on an injured left hamstring to thinking he could win the Australian Open.
And one painless, near-perfect performance in the fourth round changed the world.
“Tonight, the way I played, the way I felt, gives me reason to believe that I can go all the way,” Djokovic said after 22nd seeded Alex de Minor completely overpowered him 6:2, 6:1, 6:2. reach the quarter-finals for the 13th time at Melbourne Park and for the 54th time at all Grand Slams.
“I mean, I always believe I can go all the way when it comes to my tennis,” continued Djokovic, whose 21 major championships include nine in Australia. “But the way my leg felt before tonight did not give me much hope, so to speak, for the entire tournament, to go to the end. Tonight I feel it, so I feel positive.”
A year ago, he was expelled from the country before the Australian Open because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19. He still hasn’t been vaccinated, but the government’s coronavirus regulations have been relaxed.
After occasionally losing his temper in his first three matches at last week’s tournament, sometimes tripping on the ground, sometimes asking for help from a coach, the 35-year-old from Serbia looked like the usually lithe, court-covering, dominating me. at the Rod Laver Arena against de Minor.
Djokovic scored 42 of 64 points scored on five or more shots. He has amassed a 26-9 lead in the winners. He won all 12 games on the pitch, never making a single break point. Djokovic, generally regarded as the best returner in the game now (and perhaps ever), took a dozen break chances and converted half.
He broke down to lead 4-2 in the first set, and again to finish it. He broke down to go up 2-0 and 4-0 in the second. He broke through for a 1-0 lead and a 3-0 lead in the third.
“Today it was like constant pressure. Every service game I played didn’t give me free points. It was like an uphill battle right from the start,” de Minor said. “I could never cling to a match, make it difficult for him or create tense moments and situations.”
Djokovic said he felt “fantastic” and “really great in terms of mobility and movement”.
In addition to taking “lots” of anti-inflammatory pills to help his hamstring, Djokovic said he has used “various therapies, machines and stuff” to help improve his foot. He also warned that he “doesn’t want to celebrate too early because I don’t know how the body will react tomorrow and the next match.”
Yes, there are still competitions and players to fight.
His future opponent will be No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev, who will go into their match 0-6 in the Grand Slam quarter-finals. The other men’s match that day will be between two unseeded Americans in their 20s who have never been this far in a major tournament: Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul.
Men’s quarter-final schedule: #3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. unseeded Jiri Lehek and #18 Karen Khachanov vs. #29 Sebastian Korda.
Of the seven remaining men other than Djokovic, none have won a Grand Slam title, and only Tsitsipas has ever reached a major final, and that was the only time he lost to – yes, you guessed it – Djokovic at the French Open. in 2021.
“I have been in this situation many times before,” Djokovic said, leaning back in his chair and placing both hands on his chest. “From that perspective, I think it helps me have a more, shall we say, clear approach to the rest of the tournament days and what I need to do. Of course, I follow all the other matches, I’ll see how the other guys are doing. Let’s see what happens.”
De Minaur, for example, knows what he thinks must happen.
“What I experienced today was probably for Novak very close to his best, I would say,” he said. “For me, if it’s a level, I think he’s definitely the guy to get the title.”
MELBOURNE, Australia. Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina advanced to the Australian Open semi-finals after beating former French Open champion Elena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday.
The match at Rod Laver Arena had a rare rain delay of approximately 20 minutes while the roof was closed. Rybakina took the lead 3:1 and held a break point until the delay. On her return, Ostapenko saved the first break point, but Rybakina broke it at the next opportunity to go 4-1 to win the first set 6-2.
In the second set, Ostapenko led the break, but Rybakina equalized with her break. This happened on her first break point when Ostapenko failed to convert four in the previous game.
Rybakina, who beat first-place Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, scored match points with aces, both of which were saved by Ostapenko. But she won the match with another ace, her No. 11 of the match and the tournament-best No. 35 overall.
“I was nervous in the last game, but I managed to manage my emotions and played very well.” Rybakina said. “Conditions were different after the roof was closed. And here it can happen, you never know, in the morning one weather, and then it changes.
Rybakina will play the winner of the night quarter-final between American Jessica Pegula, ranked 3rd among the highest seeded women, and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.
In the men’s quarterfinals, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda played the next match at the Rod Laver Arena against Karen Khachanov, seeded 18th. In the night quarter-finals, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who took third place, will play with Jiri Leheka. The winners of these matches will play each other in the semi-finals on Friday.
MELBOURNE, Australia. No. 5 seed Arina Sabolenko beat Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time. Bencic double faulted by losing the first set, allowing Sobalenko to take control from that point on.
No. 4 seed Caroline Garcia faced Magda Lynette for last place in the women’s quarterfinals. Garcia reached the semi-finals of the US Open last season but never reached the quarter-finals in Australia.
Iga Swiatek, who placed first, and Ons Žaber, who placed second, were eliminated, leaving Jessica Pegula, who placed third, as the highest-ranked woman and advanced to the final eight.
“I am very happy with today’s victory,” Sobolenko said. “She (Bencic) is an incredible player. She played so well. I am very pleased with today’s level.”
Sobolenko said she worked hard to control her emotions during matches.
“It takes me a while to realize that negative emotions won’t help me on the court,” she said. “You just have to stay strong and believe no matter what.”
On Monday, Novak Djokovic faced Alex de Minor for a place in the men’s quarter-finals. Djokovic is aiming for a 10th Australian Open title and a 22nd Grand Slam title. A Grand Slam score will tie him to Rafael Nadal more than anyone else.