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Easy does it as Djokovic leads top seeds into Melbourne quarterfinals

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his fourth round match against France's Adrian Mannarino REUTERS
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his fourth round match against France's Adrian Mannarino REUTERS

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic flirted with a rare "triple bagel" and Aryna Sabalenka produced yet another powerful performance as the defending champions swept into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Sunday.

American fourth seed Coco Gauff also rattled through her match in double quick time and while she was only on court for an hour, the US Open champion showed she has all the weapons to win a second Grand Slam title.

Jannik Sinner, the men's fourth seed, got through a tough fourth round clash in three sets to underline his title credentials but last year's losing finalist, Stefanos Tsitsipas, was ousted by Taylor Fritz.

Djokovic, playing a rare daytime match, blanked Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the opening two sets and threatened to become only the sixth player to win 6-0 6-0 6-0 in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

To the Serbian's relief, Mannarino snatched three games to save some face in the third set and Djokovic's 32nd straight win at his favourite stomping ground came by the margin of 6-0 6-0 6-3.

"The tension was growing as the match progressed without him winning a game," Djokovic told reporters.

"Of course, it's tough for him, but also for me to be able to not think about that ... I was happy that got that out of the way ... then I focused on what I need to do to close out the match."

Djokovic will meet Fritz in his 58th Grand Slam quarterfinal -- a record the world number one now shares with Roger Federer -- as he seeks a record 25th major singles title.

The American played an excellent match to beat Greek seventh seed Tsitsipas 7-6(3) 5-7 6-3 6-3 but will take an 0-8 record into his first Australian Open quarterfinal.

"As far as playing me, (Djokovic) hasn't ever had a reason to change up what he's doing or change strategy because it's always gone his way," said Fritz.


While Djokovic is seeking an 11th Australian Open title, Sabalenka is a defending major champion for the first time and the second seed was brimming with confidence after thrashing Amanda Anisimova 6-3 6-2.

Top seed Iga Swiatek exited on Saturday leaving an easier path for Sabalenka to become the first woman to retain the Melbourne Park title since fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in 2012-13.

"I think I feel stronger than last year," said Sabalenka, who is yet to drop a set and has lost only 11 games in four matches. "So far I feel good. Hopefully I can keep it up."

Reigning US Open champion Gauff outclassed Magdalena Frech 6-1 6-2 in only 63 minutes for her ninth straight victory but was not at all concerned that she might be undercooked for the business end of the tournament.

"I would love for every match to go pretty easy," said the 19-year-old American, who will next play Marta Kostyuk after the Ukrainian beat Russian Maria Timofeeva 6-2 6-1.

"At the US Open, every match I won was like pretty much a dogfight. I don't know if that's the ideal way to win a slam because you have to last seven matches."

Barbora Krejcikova is the only other top 10 seed left in the women's draw and the Czech is certainly battle-hardened after giving up the opening set in three of her four matches this year

The ninth seed battled back again on Sunday to beat 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva 4-6 6-3 6-2 and set up a daunting contest against Sabalenka.

"I'm fighting," said Krejcikova. "I'm just trying to give my best and go for every single ball."

Sinner, tipped as a title contender after a red-hot finish to last season, beat Russian Karen Khachanov 6-4 7-5 6-3 to reach the last eight without dropping a set but the match was tougher than the scoreline would suggest.

Next up for Sinner is Andrey Rublev, who ended Australia's interest in the singles draws with victory over Alex de Minaur in a five-set evening thriller on Rod Laver Arena.

The fifth-seeded Russian and 10th-seeded local went toe-to-toe for more than four hours before Rublev got over the line 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 to reach the last eight for the third time. -- Reuters

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