Novak Djokovic struck back for the old guard at the Australian Open early on Tuesday, soaking up the pressure from an impressive Daniil Medvedev before crushing the young Russian 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 to reach his 10th quarter-final at Melbourne Park. The night after Roger Federer was stunned by Greek tyro Stefanos Tsitsipas, there was another sniff of an upset at Rod Laver Arena as 22-year-old Medvedev rocked the Serb with a furious assault of power hitting.
Yet the Russian wearied in the constant attrition during Monday’s fourth round match, and top seed Djokovic ended up cruising to victory soon after midnight, having passed easily his biggest test at what had been a sweat-free tournament. The world number one did not emerge entirely unscathed, however, and was troubled by a back strain in the last set.
“I didn’t feel so great in the last 20 minutes of the match, so we’ll see tomorrow how the body reacts,” he told reporters. “It was just a little bit of fatigue, a little bit of back, nothing major … But there are a couple of things that have surfaced.”
Djokovic will continue his bid for a hat-trick of successive Grand Slam triumphs and a record seventh title at Melbourne Park against eighth seed Kei Nishikori, who squeezed past Pablo Carreno Busta in a five-set epic.
“Since I guess my next opponent is watching, I’m feeling fanstastic, never felt better in my life,” 31-year-old Djokovic joked in his on-court interview with Jim Courier. “I was hoping you were going to say the other guy won, but well done, Kei.”
Federer’s exit on Sunday has been widely touted as a changing of the guard and Tsitsipas’s victory an inspiration for the Tour’s upstarts. Fifteenth seed Medvedev was certainly up to continue the theme and it took a lunging backhand drop-shot from Djokovic to save a break point in the fifth game.
The rangy Russian fought back from a break down but double-faulted to give up a set point and Djokovic sealed it with a forehand winner down the line. A red-faced Medvedev trudged to his seat to munch darkly on a banana but did not spend too long chewing on the setback. He bravely fought off five break points in the second game of the second set and broke back to 4-3 after a breathtaking rally, scrambling back and forth to retrieve drop-shots and lobs before passing the Serb.
It was Djokovic’s turn to fume, and he wound up to smash his racket into the court before stopping himself. There was no shaking the Russian, who edged an epic 42-shot rally and raced to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak.
The Serb was rattled, and he bungled a drop-shot to give Medvedev two set points before finding the net to square the high-quality contest. Djokovic needed cheap points but there were none on offer, and he took a tumble at the net on serve at 2-1, drawing a gasp from the crowd. But after dusting himself off and saving three break points from 0-40 down, the Serb was revived.
After taking Medvedev down in another marathon rally, Djokovic broke in the fifth game and the Russian suddenly appeared spent. Nothing fires Djokovic like the smell of blood, and he went after Medvedev mercilessly, roaring through the set and breaking again to lead the final stanza 3-1. Though dragging his feet between points, Medvedev snuck a break point at 3-2 but saw it disappear with a searing Djokovic forehand. From there, the Serb kept him at arm’s length before closing out the match with a string of clean winners.
Out of sorts Alexander Zverev swept aside by Milos Raonic
German prospect Alexander Zverev only managed to beat his racket on Monday as the highly-regarded fourth seed was dumped out of the Australian Open by big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in a surprisingly one-sided 6-1 6-1 7-6(5) fourth round triumph.
Zverev has emerged as one of the brightest stars in men’s tennis after victories over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic en route to an ATP Finals triumph in November, but the 21-year-old German remains unable to find his best form at Grand Slams.
Following 20-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas’ win over Federer on Sunday, the towering, shaggy-haired Zverev needed to prove he also has the temperament to match his talent and help lead the next generation against the established order.
“This is one of many tournaments. You can’t really compete every single week saying you made semis there or quarters there, beat that,” Zverev, who has yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam, told reporters. “No, actually I want to be the best, but, yeah, not this week. Right now I’m not happy, but I’m not depressed either. It’s fine. It’s a tennis match. I have learned to take tennis matches as tennis matches and not the end of the world.”
Zverev started well against 16th seed Raonic with a break in the first game, but he was then broken six times in the first two sets before the Canadian converted his fourth match point in a tight third set to seal the contest in less than two hours.
Injury-prone Raonic, who climbed to a career-high ranking of third in 2016 when he reached the Wimbledon final, believes he was rediscovering his best form. “I had a really good off-season. I put in some of the best hours in a long period of time, maybe if ever,” the 28-year-old said. “I’m not the kind of guy that needs a lot of matches.
“For me, it’s about being sharp, moving well, and being efficient with my serve and this kind of thing. If I can get those kind of things, my serve always buys me time in matches and in tournaments to sort of figure things out. It can keep me alive for a while.”
For the most part, Zverev was unable to figure anything out, and after serving his fifth double-fault to cough up a break in the second set, he hammered his racket repeatedly into the ground to pick up a code violation warning from the umpire.
While the German did not go to the extent of smashing four rackets into pieces as Marcos Baghdatis did during his three-set loss at Melbourne Park to Stan Wawrinka in 2012, it did feel like a deja vu moment for Zverev.
Last year, he took out his frustration in a similar manner during his Australian Open third round loss to South Korean Chung Hyeon. “It made me feel better,” Zverev said, recalling the incident in Monday’s match when he smashed his racket nine times while also startling a ball boy. “I was very angry, so I let my anger out.”
Zverev put up a better fight in the third set behind an improved serve and fewer unforced errors, as the German saved the second match point he faced by winning a 29-shot rally but it ultimately proved too little, too late.
Raonic advances to face either Croatian 11th seed Borna Coric or Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who is seeded 28th, for a place in the semi-finals.
Lucas Pouille reels in Borna Coric to make first Melbourne quarter-final
Lucas Pouille rallied from a set down to overcome Borna Coric 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 7-6(2) and advance to the Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time on Monday, decisively banishing his dreadful record at Melbourne Park. The French 28th seed had never won a match in five previous trips to Melbourne but he will now play off for a spot in a maiden Grand Slam semi-final against Canadian serving machine Milos Raonic.
Former world number 10 Pouille has knocked on the door at the majors before, making back-to-back quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2016. But the 24-year-old talent failed to get past the third round at any of the Slams last year.
“It’s good to be back in the quarters. That’s where I want to be,” Pouille told reporters. “Borna is 11 or 12 in the world. So if you want to beat those kind of guys, obviously you have to play some good tennis. I’m sure I can be better, much better, but I’m on a good road, and we are going to still work to be better.”
Pouille has turned to compatriot Amelie Mauresmo, a double Grand Slam champion and former coach of Andy Murray, to help him push for the sport’s biggest prizes. He said one of their goals was to get him to mix his game up a bit more with the workaday baseline pounding.
“And to be more consistent, especially from the baseline,” he added. “When you don’t have to go for it, then you have to be patient and try to play some good shots in the good zones. We have been working a lot on this, so it worked pretty good today.”
The Frenchman made hard work of the fourth set, allowing 11th seed Coric to break back and drag the match into a tiebreak in the twilight at Melbourne Arena. He raised his game when it mattered, however, flicking a delightful lob over Coric to move within two points of victory.
He earned four match points when Coric netted a volley and converted the first of them when the Croat hammered a shot over the baseline. “We worked very hard during the pre-season and during the beginning of the year, so I think, as we say, hard work pays off,” said Pouille.
Kei Nishikori beats Carreno Busta to reach quarters
An exhausted Kei Nishikori battled from two sets down to outlast Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(8) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-6(8) in an epic encounter on Monday and book his place in the Australian Open quarter-finals. Dragged into a five-set dogfight for the third time in four rounds, Nishikori struggled to deal with the physical and mental strain early on as Carreno Busta took a two-set lead only for the eighth seed to claw his way back to level the contest.
Nishikori will next take on Serb Novak Djokovic after the world number one defeated Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the day’s final clash. The Japanese blew an early a break in the fifth set and was down 5-8 in the tiebreaker before reeling off five points to seal his victory in five hours and five minutes, much to the delight of his compatriots in the crowd at Margaret Court Arena.
“I feel like it’s not enough,” Nishikori joked courtside when reminded that he had spent 13 hours and 47 minutes on court in the first four rounds. “It’s not easy, of course. Today was the toughest match. I will try to recover well tomorrow.”
The longest match of the tournament ended on a sour note as Carreno Busta cried foul over a line call while leading 8-5 in the final tiebreak. After falling to defeat, he tossed his racquet bag across the court and screamed at the chair umpire.
“I’m very sad … because after five hours fighting, after a five-hour match, the way that I leave the court wasn’t correct and I’m so sorry,” the world number 23 said in his post-match news conference.