Sports, Tennis

Djokovic, Sabalenka, Gauff all favourites march to quarters

Published : 21 Jan 2024 09:29 PM

Novak Djokovic's relentless march towards a record 25th Grand Slam title gathered pace on Sunday as he outclassed 20th seed Adrian Mannarino to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

The Serbian ran rings around his French opponent on Rod Laver Arena, winning 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 and underlining his status as red-hot favourite to lift an 11th title at Melbourne Park.

"I really wanted to lose that game in the third set because the tension was building up so much in the stadium," he joked, referring to the possibility of winning without losing a game.

"I just needed to get that out of the way and re-focus."

The world number one is into the last eight of a Grand Slam for the 58th time, equalling Roger Federer's men's record as he maintains an iron grip on the game.

He has now won 32 consecutive matches at the Australian Open, not tasting defeat since he lost against South Korea's Chung Hyeon in 2018.

The 10-time champion did not compete in 2022 due to his coronavirus vaccination status.

Mannarino, whose opening three matches all went to five sets, has enjoyed a late-career resurgence, winning three titles last year, at Newport, Astana and Sofia.

But he was made to look ordinary by the top seed, who never took his foot off the pedal.

Djokovic shrugged off two break points on his serve in the opening game before breaking himself for a 2-0 lead.

He repeated the feat twice more in an utterly dominant performance, which was played under the roof due to a shower, winning 28 points to his opponent's 12.

Mannarino could not get on the board in the second set either and was broken three more times as Djokovic threatened to sweep to victory without losing a single game.

The Frenchman briefly held up Djokovic's charge, holding serve three times in the third set, but that only delayed the inevitable as the top seed served it out.

Djokovic, 36, started his 2024 Australian Open campaign slowly, struggling with a virus and dropping sets in his first two matches, but his level has since soared.

The Serb, a year older than his opponent, said he had played "great from the first point to the last".

Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff powered into the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday with ruthless straight-sets wins.  

Defending champion Sabalenka has been in imperious touch in Melbourne and was again dominant against unseeded Amanda Anisimova on Margaret Court Arena, sweeping past the American 6-3, 6-2.

Fourth seed Gauff, attempting to become the first woman to back up a US Open title with a Grand Slam win in Australia since Naomi Osaka in 2018-19, has been almost as impressive.

She swatted aside Poland's unseeded Magdalena Frech 6-1, 6-2 in just 63 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, with the 85-year-tennis legend watching from the stands.