The lightness is back, the thigh is holding: With a demonstration of power, tennis star Novak Djokovic has ended doubts about his fitness for the time being and has reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
The 35-year-old Serb outclassed the overwhelmed Australian Alex de Minaur in a very one-sided round of 16 match and easily won 6:2, 6:1, 6:2 after just 2:06 hours. Unlike in the two previous laps, Djokovic's left thigh did not cause any problems, so there hardly seems to be anything standing in the way of his record mission.
Becker: "Good enough to win the tournament"
"I didn't feel anything at all, it was great today," said Djokovic afterwards, visibly relieved. He takes "a lot" of painkillers these days, "it's not ideal" - but it seems to help: "All in all, it was a perfect match for me today."
Boris Becker was also impressed. "He went a step further," said the Eurosport expert about his ex-protégé: "The question was: How is his thigh? He gave the answer himself: Good enough to win the tournament." That is "the most important message".
But even the six-time Grand Slam tournament winner was irritated by Djokovic's behavior in the previous matches, when he called for treatment breaks and fell onto the hard court with a pained face: "Sometimes you get the impression that he's bluffing. Sometimes you have feels like he can't finish the match. It's kind of between heaven and hell. That's difficult for the opponent to adjust to."
Record is within reach
Because of this injury and the strong performance of number 22 seed de Minaur, the Australian fans had hoped for a surprise - but that hope was quickly dashed in the Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic was wide awake from the start, physically fit and superior in almost every respect. "I can't say I'm sorry you didn't see a longer match," Djokovic said to the fans.
De Minaur lacked the quality for a coup against the tournament favorite, who is only three wins away from the 22nd Grand Slam tournament victory. Djokovic would draw level with record holder Rafael Nadal in the final on January 29. "It's his lifelong dream," says Becker.
On Wednesday, Djokovic, who has been undefeated in 25 games at the Australian Open, will first fight Russia's Andrei Rublev for the semi-final ticket. The 25-year-old had previously averted the almost certain end several times in a gripping five-set thriller against Denmark's young star Holger Rune (19) and after 3:37 hours with 6: 3, 3: 6, 6: 3, 4: 6, 7 :6 (11:9) won thanks to a lucky net roller at match point.
"It's not a roller coaster ride, it's as if someone puts a gun to your head. Riding the roller coaster is easier," said Rublev, who is now also fighting his personal curse: he has lost all of his previous six Grand Slam quarter-final games.
The Americans Ben Shelton also reached the round of the best eight players with a five-set win against compatriot J.J. Wolf and Tommy Paul, who prevailed in four sets against the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
Croatian Donna Vekic, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, Pole Magda Linette and former world number one Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic survived the round of 16 hurdle.