Tennis: Djokovic reaches Australian Open quarters, matches Federer’s Grand Slam record

AP , Sunday 21 Jan 2024

Novak Djokovic was ruthless in a 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 win over Adrian Mannarino on Sunday, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and matching Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam record.

Djokovic
Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after defeating Adrian Mannarino of France in their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. AP

In a rare daytime appearance on Rod Laver Arena, the 10-time Australian Open champion hit 31 winners and raced to victory in 1 hour and 44 minutes to progress to the last eight for the 58th time at a major, equaling Federer’s record.

Djokovic is into the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 14th time, which is equal second on the all-time list with Rafael Nadal and John Newcombe. The difference is that he’s converted most of those quarterfinal runs into titles at Melbourne Park.

He’ll next face No. 12 Taylor Fritz, who reached the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time with a 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, the runner-up here last year.

“I think I served well, the whole match, it kept me in it,” said Fritz, after his first victory over a top 10 player at a major. “And then at the very end when I really needed it, I feel like I just, I turned it up a level and started playing my absolute best tennis to finish it.”

Djokovic, who labored in his first two rounds, believes he’s starting to hit his stride.

“The first two sets were some of the best sets I’ve played in a while,” said Djokovic, who is bidding for a record-extending 25th Grand Slam singles title. “I played great from the first to the last point.”

He added, in jest: “I really wanted to lose that game in the third set because the tension was building in the stadium.

The 35-year-old Mannarino had gone to five sets in all three of his previous rounds. After missing a break point in the opening game, he almost never threatened Djokovic.

The Frenchman avoided a so-called triple-bagel – only five Grand Slam matches in the Open era have been won 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 – but he was only postponing the inevitable.

Djokovic has admitted to feeling unwell in recent rounds but said his health is improveing.

“Last couple of days has been really good,” he said. “It’s going in a positive direction, health-wise, tennis-wise.”

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and U.S. Open winner Coco Gauff cruised into the women’s quarterfinals with commanding wins.

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 to counter the power of the Belarusian, who hit 18 winners.

“I’m super-happy with the level, happy to get this win, she’s a tough opponent,” Sabalenka said. “I love the atmosphere here, I love playing in front of you guys. I really want to stay as long as possible and hopefully we can get this thing one more time.”

A brief rain delay at 4-1 in the first set stopped Sabalenka’s momentum but she quickly recovered and pulled away in the second set. She’ll meet either 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva or No. 9 Barbora Krejcikova in the last eight.

Gauff 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.”

Gauff will play Marta Kostyuk after the Ukrainian beat Maria Tomafeeva 6-2, 6-1 to reach the major quarterfinals for the first time.

Still a teenager, Gauff drew attention to her shoes, which carry a number of messages, including one that says: ‘you can change the world with your racket,’ something her father told her as a little girl.

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