Alex De Minaur’s star is so much on the rise he bumped Novak Djokovic to a rare day slot on Rod Laver Arena, though the unusual timing did nothing to affect the champion’s form as he completed an ominously emphatic fourth-round win.
The organisers of the Australian Open arranged for de Minaur to face Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev in the fourth round, during the prime-time night session on Sunday. This meant that Djokovic played against Adrian Mannarino in the early afternoon.
This was the first instance in 2021 that the 10-time champion participated in a day game, breaking a streak of 15 consecutive evening matches. It seemed that he took it personally as he showed no mercy in defeating Mannarino in three sets, with scores of 6-0, 6-0, 6-3.
Djokovic expressed his love for playing at 7pm, stating that it was no secret. He also mentioned that he didn’t mind playing during the day, as his performance today was strong despite the one-hour and 44-minute match.
Despite being ahead at 6-0, 2-0, Djokovic put in a strong effort to prevent the Frenchman from scoring a single game. He enthusiastically pumped his fist after saving a break point and celebrated as if he had won the entire title when he secured a 3-0 lead.
It was strange conduct, to say the least, but highlighted the determination of the top-ranked player to surpass Margaret Court’s record and win an unparalleled 25th grand slam singles title next Sunday.
Despite possibly not doing so, at 36 years of age, the athlete continues to break records with each appearance on the court. His win on Sunday brought him to his 58th grand slam quarter-final, an impressive feat equal to that of his retired counterpart and longtime contemporary, Roger Federer.
Despite his dominant victory, Djokovic faced some struggles as he coughed and sputtered throughout the match. The 24-time Grand Slam champion revealed that he had been sick during the first week of the tournament, but tennis legend Rod Laver, whose name is on the center court where Djokovic has had much success, questioned whether he was being truthful.
He will face world No 12 Taylor Fritz on Tuesday in the quarter-finals, as the American defeated last year’s runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
“I always strive for efficiency,” stated Djokovic following his victory. “My goal is to finish the match in a straight set as quickly as possible. However, it’s not always feasible as the tournament progresses and I face tougher opponents.”
“I wasn’t actively considering it. I was simply taking things as they came and the past few days have been very positive. My health and tennis game are both heading in a good direction, so I am content with my current progress.”
On Sunday, De Minaur, who is currently in top form, will be excited to compete in his hometown’s major tournament and perform in front of a large audience on the main court.
“I am eager to compete on RLA,” the 24-year-old expressed before the Sunday schedule was finalized. “The prime-time slot is quite significant, and it must be earned. However, ultimately it does not matter to me when I play; whether it is the first match or the last, or whether it is on RLA or court 27. My performance will remain the same.”
De Minaur, ranked 10th in the world, will enter his last-16 match with the confidence of having won three out of five matches against Rublev. A fourth win against the Russian would advance de Minaur to the quarter-finals, where he would face either the fourth-seeded Sinner or world No 15 Karen Khachanov.
De Minaur has only made it to the quarter-finals once in a major tournament, which was at the 2020 US Open. He was eliminated by eventual champion Dominic Thiem. Despite being knocked out in the fourth round at the last two Australian Opens, de Minaur is prepared to reach the quarter-finals at his home grand slam this year.
“I will strive to improve and surpass my previous record in order to reach the quarter-finals. That is the initial goal,” he stated. “In the past, I have reached the fourth round a few times, but perhaps I did not perform as well as I had hoped. My aim is to surpass that barrier and advance even further.”