Djokovic routs Mannarino to advance to Aussie Open quarters
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Achieving yet another record at the Australian Open put Novak Djokovic in a reflective mood, revealing how he thought things might change after he'd clinched that historic 24th major title.
Djokovic played his best two sets “in a while” in a 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 demolition of Adrian Mannarino on Sunday to reach the quarterfinals at a major for the 58th time, equaling Roger Federer’s Grand Slam record.
It's his 14th run to the last eight at Melbourne Park, where his conversion rate is incredible. Of the previous 13, he's gone on to win 10 Australian titles.
“I thought maybe I would this year feel slightly more relaxed, for lack of better term, or maybe less tension, less stress on practice sessions, matches,” he said. “But it's not. It is as it always was: very high intensity.”
The 36-year-old Djokovic is meticulous in his planning and preparation and has had unprecedented success at the Grand Slam events in the Open era.
Even with two more major titles than any man in history, he said he can't relax and just enjoy it.
“You can see it even today. I was 6-Love, 2-Love up. It was a long game, and I was like going on with discussions, heated discussions, with my box,” he said. “The fire is still burning.
“I’m not playing anymore because I need more money or I need more points or whatever. I just want to play. I really enjoy the competition.”
In the quarterfinals he'll be facing No. 12-ranked Taylor Fritz, who reached the last eight in Australia for the first time with a 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 win over 2023 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Djokovic was in his post-match news conference when Fritz and Tsitsipas were still on court. He was asked about both potential rivals, and said he was confident if he played to his level.
No surprise to Fritz, who is 0-8 against Djokovic.
“I mean, if I beat someone eight times in a row, I’d be pretty confident playing them, too, I can’t really fault him for that,” Fritz said, before adding that he was improving and was coming off his first win over at top 10 player at a Slam.
“I think that I have a lot more level to bring than I’ve previously brought against him. Hopefully I can play another match like today.”
For Djokovic, it was a rare day session. He said it's no secret he prefers the 7 p.m. start but if the scoreline was any reflection of how he played in the daylight, he was content.
He dropped sets in his first two rounds and struggled with a virus but said his last two wins show "it’s going in a positive direction, health-wise, tennis-wise.”
No. 4 Jannik Sinner hasn't dropped a set en route to the quarterfinals, with the Italian beating No. 15 Karen Khachanov on Sunday, nor have women's defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and U.S. Open winner Coco Gauff.
Sinner will play a quarterfinal against Andrey Rublev after the No. 5 seed rallied to beat No. 10 Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0.
Asked what was going through his head when he was down a set at 2-1 against an Aussie in the home of Australian tennis, Rublev said: "You don't want to be inside my head, it's like a scary movie!"
Sabalenka will next play 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who dropped the first set but rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win that ended 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva's bid to become the youngest Australian Open quarterfinalist since Martina Hingis in 1997.
No. 2-ranked Sabalenka, who won her first Slam title here last year, beat Amanada Anisimova 6-3, 6-2. Gauff, who picked up her first major at the U.S. Open in September, beat Magdalena Frech 6-1, 6-2.
Anisimova had won four of their previous five meetings but she didn’t have the answers this time.
“I’m super-happy with the level, happy to get this win, she’s a tough opponent,” Sabalenka said of overcoming that obstacle. As for the next? “I feel stronger than last year. So far I feel good. Hopefully I just can keep it up."
Gauff, who next faces Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, was the first woman through, needing just 63 minutes to see off Frech in a match played on Rod Laver Arena — in front of the Australian great.
“Luckily when I saw him come in I was already well up,” Gauff said. “I heard clapping and knew it wasn’t for us, it was only the first set. But thank you for coming. It’s an honor.”
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