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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic blasts past De Minaur and into quarter-finals

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Novak Djokovic surged into the Australian Open quarter-finals with his “best match of this year” on Monday, while Aryna Sabalenka was an equally ruthless winner.

After a series of shocks at Melbourne Park, normal order was more or less restored on day eight, except for fourth seed Caroline Garcia bowing out under the weight of expectation.

Djokovic demolished Alex de Minaur for the loss of just five games to sweep into the last eight and step up his bid for a 10th Melbourne crown, and record-tying 22nd major title in all.

He will meet fifth seed Andrey Rublev for a semi-final berth after the Russian toppled Danish teenager Holger Rune in a thrilling five-set clash also at Rod Laver Arena.

The Serb’s 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 triumph over 22nd-seeded home hope De Minaur was an ominous statement of intent. Significantly, his troublesome left hamstring appeared much improved.

Asked afterwards how he had been so emphatic, Djokovic told the crowd: “Because I wanted to.

“I cannot say I’m sorry you did not watch a longer match. I really wanted to win in straight sets.”

The 35-year-old called it his “best match of this year so far” and of his hamstring said: “I did not feel anything today, so today was great.”

Rublev admitted he was “lucky” after saving two match points against Rune, in energy-sapping heat.

He described beating the 19-year-old as “not like a rollercoaster, it’s like they put a gun to your head. A rollercoaster is easier.”

In a men’s draw decimated by shocks, including the second-round exit of reigning champion Rafael Nadal, there will be a last-eight clash between two unseeded Americans.

The 20-year-old Ben Shelton, on his first trip outside the United States, emerged from another five-setter against friend and fellow American JJ Wolf.

Shelton is only the fourth man in the past 20 years to reach the Melbourne quarter-finals on debut.

“I really focused in the fifth set, just being energetic, trusting my fitness and just hustling, being courageous and I thought I did a really good job of competing at the highest level in the fifth set,” said the 89th-ranked Shelton.

He plays Tommy Paul, who defeated 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Novak Djokovic has now won a staggering 25 matches in a row at the Australian Open, easing aside home favourite Alex De Minaur on Monday night to complete the quarter-final line-up.

The tournament is into a more routine rhythm after the late-night chaos of the first week replaced by the more rarefied atmosphere of the second.

Jessica Pegula said she was particularly happy because the locker room is now less crowded and she is right: of the 256 singles players who started the fortnight with a dream, only 16 remain. Everyone can spread out a bit more

Men’s draw

  • Karen Khachanov (18) vs Sebastian Korda (29)
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs Jiri Lehecka
  • Andrey Rublev (5) vs Novak Djokovic (4)
  • Ben Shelton vs Tommy Paul

Predicted semi-finals

  • Khachanov vs Tstsipas
  • Djokovic vs Paul