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LIVE | Australian Open: Rampant Djokovic surges into 10th Australian Open final

LIVE | Australian Open: Rampant Djokovic surges into 10th Australian Open final
Rod Laver Arena (Getty Images
Rod Laver Arena (Getty Images

Live updates from the Australian Open taking place at Melbourne Park from 16-29 January.

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9h ago

A rampant Novak Djokovic surged into a 10th Australian Open final Friday to close in on a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam crown, with only Stefanos Tsitsipas now standing in his way.

The Serbian fourth seed overcame an early wobble to romp past unseeded American Tommy Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in style.

Another title on Sunday will move him alongside Rafael Nadal with 22 Slam wins and see the 35-year-old return to world number one for the first time since last June.

Greek third seed Tsitsipas, who ground past Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in the other semi-final, can also become the top-ranked player should he lift the trophy.

Djokovic played the clash without father Srdjan courtside after he was filmed posing with a man holding a Russian flag featuring Vladimir Putin's face following his son's quarter-final win on Wednesday.

The incident sparked a backlash from Ukraine and led to calls for Djokovic's father to be banned from the tournament.

Srdjan issued a statement ahead of the semi-final saying he would stay away, insisting he "wishes only for peace" and never wanted to cause "disruption".

There was an empty seat next to his mother Dijana during the match.

"I'm really thankful that I have enough gas in my legs to be able to play at this level on one of the biggest tennis courts in the world," said Djokovic, who is now 11-0 for the season and into a 33rd Grand Slam final.

"Of course, I'm not as fresh as the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of hours in the off-season on fitness in order to be in a good condition to play best of five (sets).

"I know what's expected of me, I've been in this situation so many times in my career. Experience helps also," he added of being in another final.The win extended his unbeaten streak at the Australian Open to 27 matches to claim sole ownership of the Open-era record at Melbourne Park ahead of Andre Agassi.

Djokovic had never played Paul before and said he was wary of a "very explosive, very dynamic player", with the American initially refusing to go quietly.

The Serb, a hot favourite, attacked his opponent's straight away for an early break, then broke again when the 35th-ranked Paul fired a forehand long to race 5-1 in front.

A run-in with the umpire over using his towel between points seemed to rattle Djokovic and he was broken twice in a row as Paul came surging back to 5-5.Djokovic regrouped to hold serve and break again and take the set in 59 minutes.

After that wobble, it was all business, despite clutching his strapped hamstring several times, romping through the next two sets with minimal resistence.

He will meet Tsitsipas next after the Greek battled into his first Australian final and only second at a Grand Slam.

In the previous one, at Roland Garros in 2021, he fell to Djokovic in five sets after holding a 2-0 lead.At 24, Tsitsipas is the youngest man to reach the Melbourne final since a 23-year-old Djokovic in 2011.

"I dreamed as a kid to maybe one day get to play in this court against the best players in the world," said Tsitsipas, who is also unbeaten this season with a 10-0 record.

"I'm extremely happy that I'm in the final now and let's see what happens."

Tsitsipas has thrived in Melbourne throughout his career after bursting on the scene at the 2019 event as a 20-year-old when he dethroned defending champion Roger Federer in the last 16.

He went on to reach the semi-finals that year and again in 2021 and 2022. He came into his clash with Khachanov brimming with confidence.

Despite failing to get over the line when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, then with two match points in the tiebreak, he kept his cool to secure the win and a date with Djokovic.

-AFP

<p>A rampant Novak Djokovic surged into a 10th Australian Open final Friday to close in on a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam crown, with only Stefanos Tsitsipas now standing in his way.</p><p>The Serbian fourth seed overcame an early wobble to romp past unseeded American Tommy Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in style.</p><p>Another title on Sunday will move him alongside Rafael Nadal with 22 Slam wins and see the 35-year-old return to world number one for the first time since last June.</p><p>Greek third seed Tsitsipas, who ground past Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in the other semi-final, can also become the top-ranked player should he lift the trophy.</p><p>Djokovic played the clash without father Srdjan courtside after he was filmed posing with a man holding a Russian flag featuring Vladimir Putin's face following his son's quarter-final win on Wednesday.</p><p>The incident sparked a backlash from Ukraine and led to calls for Djokovic's father to be banned from the tournament.</p><p>Srdjan issued a statement ahead of the semi-final saying he would stay away, insisting he "wishes only for peace" and never wanted to cause "disruption".</p><p>There was an empty seat next to his mother Dijana during the match.</p><p>"I'm really thankful that I have enough gas in my legs to be able to play at this level on one of the biggest tennis courts in the world," said Djokovic, who is now 11-0 for the season and into a 33rd Grand Slam final.</p><p>"Of course, I'm not as fresh as the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of hours in the off-season on fitness in order to be in a good condition to play best of five (sets).</p><p>"I know what's expected of me, I've been in this situation so many times in my career. Experience helps also," he added of being in another final.The win extended his unbeaten streak at the Australian Open to 27 matches to claim sole ownership of the Open-era record at Melbourne Park ahead of Andre Agassi.</p><p>Djokovic had never played Paul before and said he was wary of a "very explosive, very dynamic player", with the American initially refusing to go quietly.</p><p>The Serb, a hot favourite, attacked his opponent's straight away for an early break, then broke again when the 35th-ranked Paul fired a forehand long to race 5-1 in front.</p><p>A run-in with the umpire over using his towel between points seemed to rattle Djokovic and he was broken twice in a row as Paul came surging back to 5-5.Djokovic regrouped to hold serve and break again and take the set in 59 minutes.</p><p>After that wobble, it was all business, despite clutching his strapped hamstring several times, romping through the next two sets with minimal resistence.</p><p>He will meet Tsitsipas next after the Greek battled into his first Australian final and only second at a Grand Slam.</p><p>In the previous one, at Roland Garros in 2021, he fell to Djokovic in five sets after holding a 2-0 lead.At 24, Tsitsipas is the youngest man to reach the Melbourne final since a 23-year-old Djokovic in 2011.</p><p>"I dreamed as a kid to maybe one day get to play in this court against the best players in the world," said Tsitsipas, who is also unbeaten this season with a 10-0 record.</p><p>"I'm extremely happy that I'm in the final now and let's see what happens."</p><p>Tsitsipas has thrived in Melbourne throughout his career after bursting on the scene at the 2019 event as a 20-year-old when he dethroned defending champion Roger Federer in the last 16.</p><p>He went on to reach the semi-finals that year and again in 2021 and 2022. He came into his clash with Khachanov brimming with confidence.</p><p>Despite failing to get over the line when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, then with two match points in the tiebreak, he kept his cool to secure the win and a date with Djokovic.</p><p><strong>-AFP</strong></p>

14h ago

Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan said he would not attend his son's Australian Open semi-final on Friday to avoid further "disruption" after he was pictured with fans holding Russian flags.

"My family has lived through the horror of war and we wish only for peace," he said in a statement, adding:

"I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption."

The statement said that 35-year-old former world number one Djokovic, the Serb who faces American Tommy Paul in the last four in Melbourne, will not comment on the controversy.

"I am here to support my son only," said Djokovic senior, after he was filmed Wednesday with fans holding Russian flags at Melbourne Park, where they are banned.

"I was outside with Novak's fans as I have done after all of my son's matches to celebrate his wins and take pictures with them."I had no intention of being caught up in this."

So there is no disruption to tonight's semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home," he added.

- AFP

26 January 14:35

Sabalenka to face Rybakina in Australian Open final

Aryna Sabalenka will face Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open final after overpowering unseeded Magda Linette 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 in a semi-final played in chilly conditions on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.

Fifth seed Sabalenka's maiden Grand Slam final appearance will be against the Wimbledon champion, who earlier beat Victoria Azarenka in straight sets.

"I'm super happy, super happy that I was able to get this win," said the Belarusian, who had been hoping to play her compatriot Azarenka in Saturday's showpiece.

"Magda's an unbelievable player. She played really great tennis," added the 24-year-old.

Sabalenka came into the match as many observers' favourite for the Melbourne crown but she had never won a Grand Slam semi-final in three previous attempts.

She had led world number one Iga Swiatek 4-2 in the third set of their US Open semi-final in September before a spectacular meltdown where she lost 16 of the last 20 points.

That sort of mental baggage in tennis is always lurking, especially for someone as emotional as Sabalenka, who has admitted to being stymied by nerves in the past.

But the world number five has been in the form of her life since arriving in Australia.

She won the Adelaide International warm-up tournament and has now extended her unbeaten streak to 10 matches, not losing a single set in any of them.

Sabalenka has been exuding a calmer, more assured, persona on court, without losing any of her famed aggression.

It was this new version of Sabalenka that was to undergo a severe examination early against Poland's surprise-package Linette.

Linette had enjoyed a dream run to her first Grand Slam semi-final at the age of 30, already knocking out four seeded players on the way including world number four Caroline Garcia of France.

The Pole was out of the gate fastest, breaking to love in the opening game and holding for an early lead.

Sabalenka was being made to work hard and showed all her new-found patience to get back on terms with a break of her own, to love, for 2-2 and the set went to a tie-break.

Sabalenka timed her moment perfectly to up the aggression, and the decibel level, racing to 4-0 with a scream.

An ace that barely clipped the line stretched it to 5-0 and she closed out comfortably after 51 minutes, having smacked 20 winners to just seven from Linette."I would say that I didn't start really well," admitted Sabalenka.

"And then on the tie-break I kind of found my rhythm and just started trusting myself, started going for the shots. It was great tennis from me in the tie-break."

Sabalenka showed no sign of letting up in the second set, breaking Linette and with a scream of "Come on!" holding for a 3-1 advantage.

A second break took her within sight of the finish line, which she raced across in 1hr 33min.

Linette, who had been flying the flag for Poland after the shock exit of world number one Swiatek, will have the consolation of soaring to a career-high 22nd in the world when the new rankings come out on Monday.

- AFP

26 January 12:41

Rybakina floors Azarenka to reach women's final

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina beat Victoria Azarenka in straight sets to reach the Australian Open final on Thursday and end the Belarusian's dream of a third Melbourne title.

Rybakina won their semi-final 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 and will meet Aryna Sabalenka or Magda Linette in Saturday's final.

Azarenka, who won the Grand Slam in 2012 and 2013, was beaten in 1hr 41min in blustery conditions on Rod Laver Arena.

The 22nd seed Rybakina had already beaten reigning French and US Open champion Iga Swiatek in the fourth round and 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.

And after a tight first set, the Moscow-born 23-year-old stretched away to account for a third Grand Slam champion.

"I'm super happy to be in the final. Today it was a bit tougher for me because it was different conditions," said Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan.

"I couldn't play really aggressive tennis. The ball was not going so much, but I'm happy that in the end I managed to win.

"I'll try my best in the final of course."Rybakina won in straight sets when the pair played at Indian Wells last year, their only previous meeting.

Veteran Azarenka, 33, was largely on the back foot again against the grace and power of Rybakina, who was in her first Melbourne Park semi-final.

Rybakina reached the last four largely on the back of her powerful serving, having struck 35 aces in her five matches at Melbourne Park, more than any other player.

She started with a nervy double fault but soon was back in the groove, launching three booming aces in a row to secure the opening game.

Azarenka withstood an early assault from Rybakina's heavy, deep groundstrokes to force the first break point, which she converted with a high volley, only for her opponent to strike straight back.

Now powering winners off both wings and utilising her wide reach, Rybakina broke a second time for 5-3.

Trying to close out, the Kazakh's first serve deserted her. Azarenka saved a set point then created two chances of her own, converting the second.

At 5-5 Rybakina's second double fault gave 24th seed Azarenka three break points.Rybakina showed why she is already a Grand Slam champion by averting the crisis and sealing the game with her sixth ace.

In a tight tie-break Azarenka went long at 4-5 to give Rybakina two set points. She needed only one to go ahead after exactly an hour of play.

The aces and winners kept coming at the start of the second set, Azarenka getting more frustrated as she was broken to love to go 2-1 down.

Two double faults from Azarenka then gave Rybakina another opportunity, which she took for 5-2 and a chance to serve for a place in the final.

Nerves crept in on Rybakina's normally reliable serve and a double fault gifted Azarenka a chance to extend the contest, which she took with a backhand return winner.

Rybakina was not to be denied and broke again to reach her first Australian Open final.

- AFP

26 January 11:25

Djokovic wary of semi-final underdog in quest for 22nd Slam title

Novak Djokovic has won all nine of his Australian Open semi-finals and is not ready to let Tommy Paul ruin his unblemished record on Friday as he closes in on a 22nd Grand Slam crown.

The Serb, who won his first Slam at Melbourne Park in 2008, struggled physically in the early rounds this year with a hamstring injury.

But straight-sets thrashings of Alex de Minaur and Andrey Rublev for the loss of just 12 games ominously signalled that the favourite is back to his best for the semi-finals.

Should he beat the unseeded American Paul on Rod Laver Arena, he will face either third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov as a final roadblock to a 10th Australian Open title on Sunday.

Djokovic has extra motivation to go all the way and equal Rafael Nadal's 22nd Grand Slam crowns after missing last year's event when he was deported over his Covid vaccination stance.

In his absence the Spanish great won.

"I always try to give my best, particularly in Grand Slams, because at this stage of my career those are the tournaments that count the most," said the 35-year-old.

"But you could say that there is something extra this year. You could say because, yeah, the injury, what happened last year, I just wanted to really do well.

"So far I have a perfect score in Australian hard courts, in Adelaide (which he won) and here. I've been playing better and better. I couldn't ask for a better situation to be in at the moment."

With Djokovic on a 26-match win streak at the Australian Open - equalling Andre Agassi's Open-era record at the first Grand Slam of the year - the 35th-ranked Paul is a heavy underdog.

The 25-year-old is a surprise semi-finalist, making this far at a major for the first time on the 14th attempt.

"We never played a match against each other. Obviously he's pretty comfortable here in Australia," Paul said.

"It's going to be a challenging match, but I'm playing some of my best tennis, so it's a good time."

Djokovic said he had been monitoring the American and would not underestimate the challenge.

"He's been playing probably the tennis of his life," he said. "Very explosive, very dynamic player. I think he can hit all the spots with the serve. Very complete player.

"First semi-finals for him, so of course he doesn't have much to lose."

'Magical experiences'

Tsitsipas meets Khachanov in the other last-four showdown on Friday, aiming to snap a run of three semi-final losses in Melbourne, including over the past two years.

Now 24, he believes he has matured and that this could finally be his year as he bids to become the youngest champion since Djokovic won the title in 2011 aged 23.

"I'm feeling great with my tennis. I don't think I felt so good in a long time," the Greek said.

"I've said it - I'm a different player (from the past), playing different. My mentality is different."

He has won all five previous encounters with Khachanov, most recently at the Rome Masters last year, and said he was eager to face the Russian again.

"It's a match that I'm looking forward to," he said. "I'm looking ahead for more, for better. Looking to create some magical experiences here in Australia."

The 26-year-old Russian also made the semi-finals at September's US Open.

He has now made the quarters or better at all four Grand Slams and will draw on the experience when he plays the Greek star.

"I think the first semi-finals, which I did in US Open, that gave me an extra boost and extra confidence to show where I really am, and what I can do when I'm at my best," he said.

"I think all those things together, they push me to where I am right now."

- AFP

26 January 07:26

Novak Djokovic's father sparks controversy

Novak Djokovic's father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine's ambassador on Thursday slammed as "a disgrace".

<p><strong>Novak Djokovic's father sparks controversy</strong></p><p>Novak Djokovic's&nbsp;father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine's ambassador on Thursday slammed as "a disgrace".</p>
READ more here...

26 January 07:26

Novak Djokovic's father sparks controversy

Novak Djokovic's father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine's ambassador on Thursday slammed as "a disgrace".

<p><strong>Novak Djokovic's father sparks controversy</strong></p><p>Novak Djokovic's&nbsp;father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine's ambassador on Thursday slammed as "a disgrace".</p>
READ more here...

26 January 07:26

Novak Djokovic's father sparks controversy

Novak Djokovic's father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine's ambassador on Thursday slammed as "a disgrace".

<p><strong>Novak Djokovic's father sparks controversy</strong></p><p>Novak Djokovic's&nbsp;father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine's ambassador on Thursday slammed as "a disgrace".</p>
READ more here...

25 January 13:09

Australian Open semi-finals line-up (x denotes seed):

Men

Novak Djokovic (SRB x4) v Tommy Paul (USA)

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x3) v Karen Khachanov (RUS x18)

Women

Elena Rybakina (KAZ x22) v Victoria Azarenka (BLR x24)

Linette (POL) v Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x5)

25 January 13:03

Djokovic crushes Rublev to make Australian Open semi-finals

Novak Djokovic delivered a masterclass on Wednesday to race into the Australian Open semi-finals and edge closer to a 22nd Grand Slam title with a straight-sets thrashing of Andrey Rublev.

The Serbian was in the zone to blitz past the Russian 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena and meets Tommy Paul for a place in Sunday's final.

The unseeded American Paul defeated countryman Ben Shelton 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

"I cannot be happier with my tennis, honestly," said Djokovic, after reaching a 10th semi-final at Melbourne Park. Only Roger Federer (15) and Jack Crawford (11) have been there more often.

"I've been playing very solid from the back of the court and I really love playing in these conditions and this court," the 35-year-old told Rod Laver Arena.

"Some really close games that we had," he added. "Andrey is a great opponent, great player. I have tons of respect for him, one of the biggest forehands, quickest players on the tour.

"I knew what the game plan was and it was important that I found my best tennis."

Djokovic's quest for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title has been far from smooth, plagued by a left hamstring strain suffered en route to the title at Adelaide this month.

He struggled physically in the early rounds but was dominant during his fourth-round demolition of Alex de Minaur, and he showed few problems against Rublev.

Victory for the red-hot favourite propelled him into a 44th Grand Slam semi-final to close the gap on Federer's all-time record of 46.

In another astonishing record, he clocked a 26th consecutive match-win at the Australian Open to equal Andre Agassi's Open-era record for longest streak at the first Grand Slam of the year.

The signs were ominous for Rublev before the match even started.

In contrast to Djokovic's outstanding record in Melbourne, Rublev - who was taken to five sets by Holger Rune in the fourth round - came into the clash with a 0-6 record in Grand Slam quarter-finals.

After a shaky start when he served double fault to open proceedings, Djokovic quickly settled into a rhythm.

The Russian, who also sent down a double fault to start, struggled early on.

His serving jitters persisted and when the Serb worked a break point at 2-1 he double-faulted again in response.

Djokovic was on fire and raced to a 4-1 lead before converting a fifth break point to speed 5-1 clear and clinch the set in 39 minutes.

Rublev had no answers to his precision and power.

Djokovic continued in the same vein in the second set, grabbing his opportunity in game four after a 16-shot rally when Rublev blinked first with a backhand error.

Another break left Rublev frustrated and castigating himself as he slumped two sets down.

He took a bathroom break in between sets, but it didn't work as Djokovic came out with more venomous shots and broke his serve in the opening game and never let up.

- AFP

25 January 12:35

Billie Jean King urges Wimbledon to lift Russia, Belarus ban

Tennis great Billie Jean King urged Wimbledon on Wednesday to lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, saying "life is too short".

Players from both countries were barred from the Grand Slam last year over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the tournament stripped of ranking points as a result.

The All England Club is considering whether to do the same again this year but King called on them to drop the ban.

"Just keep it the same way as the other ones are. Life is too short," she told reporters at the Australian Open.

"I think they should get prize money. Just have them play and get their money.

"Players from Russia and Belarus are competing at the Australian Open as independents under a neutral white flag.

Two Belarusians - Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabelenka - are into the semi-finals and could meet in Saturday's title match.

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan is also in the last four, despite being seeded only 22 after missing out on rankings points for winning the major.

"It's the ranking points, for sure. They have to have it. Rybakina, they've seeded her 22, but because she won Wimbledon she's not [seeded higher]," said King.

- AFP

25 January 10:10

Paul ends Shelton fairy tale to reach Australian Open semi-finals

Tommy Paul beat Ben Shelton to reach a maiden Grand Slam semi-final and end his fellow American's  fairy tale run at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

In a clash between two unseeded players, Paul used his greater experience to grind down the 20-year-old 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in a battle of attrition on Rod Laver Arena.

He will face either Serbian nine-time champion Novak Djokovic or Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev for a place in Sunday's title match.

Paul is the first American man into the last four of the Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2009.

Victory put the 25-year-old into his first major semi-final on the 14th attempt, with the world number 35's previous best at Wimbledon last year when he reached the fourth round.

Despite never playing a Slam quarter-final before, he had far more experience than Shelton, who was at only his second major and, remarkably, on his first trip overseas.

Paul leaned on that advantage and his returning prowess to disarm the left-hander's biggest weapons - his serve and his forehand.

"Pumped to be here and obviously really excited for whoever I play next," said Paul, who has won one Tour-level title, on the Stockholm hardcourts in 2021, and achieved a career-high ranking of 28 last September.

"Making it to the second week of a Slam is everyone's dream when they play tennis. Can't believe I'm here right now.

"There wasn't too much rhythm in the match, but Ben is very tough to play against," he added.

"He's going to be in many, many more matches like this so everyone should be really excited for that kid.

"In the biggest match of both players' careers, and their first against each other, the 89th-ranked Shelton opened with a decisive serve to love.

He saved a break point on his next service game, but the chances were limited in a tight baseline battle, with only the occasional foray to the net.

It went to a tie-break where a netted backhand from Shelton gave Paul set point and the same shot handed him the set in 56 gruelling minutes.

Paul worked only the second break point of the match at 2-1 in the next set, but Shelton again clung on and then forced Paul to save two against him in the following game.

But as the pressure mounted, unforced errors began to creep in to Shelton's game and when he flayed a forehand wide from the baseline, Paul got the crucial break for a 4-2 lead and kept his composure to take the set with an ace.

Shelton fended off four break points at 1-1 in the third set as Paul went in for the kill, but his consistent countryman kept coming and finally forced the breakthrough for 4-3.

Undeterred, Shelton immediately got the set back on an even keel next game and stunned Paul with some power hitting to break again and take the match to a fourth set.

But the effort seemed to sap his energy and Paul romped to victory.

- AFP

25 January 06:35

Sabalenka beats Vekic to reach Australian Open semi-finals

Aryna Sabalenka reached her maiden Australian Open semi-final with a battling 6-3, 6-2 victory over unseeded Donna Vekic on Wednesday at Rod Laver Arena in a 1hr 49min tussle.

The Belarusian fifth seed, the highest-ranked player left in the draw, will play another unseeded player, Poland's Magda Linette, for a place in Saturday's final.

"It feels really special to be in the semi-finals here, it was a tough match," said Sabalenka, competing in her first Australian Open quarter-final.

"I'm super happy with the win and it was so great to play here today, the atmosphere was unbelievable."

Sabalenka came into the match as many observers' favourite for a first major.

She won the recent WTA Adelaide International and had not dropped a set in 2023 in eight matches.

The world number five had reached the US Open semi-finals in each of the last two seasons and made the final four at Wimbledon in 2021.

By contrast, 64th-ranked Croatian Vekic, aged 26, has been working her way back to the top 20 after knee surgery two years ago that she thought might end her career.

It was only her second major quarter-final after the 2019 US Open.

But Vekic had won five of the pair's six meetings, including at the Tokyo Olympics and in San Diego last October, and she was able to put fierce pressure on Sabalenka's serve early on.

The Belarusian withstood the onslaught, saving three break points to lead 2-1.

She broke Vekic to love for 3-1 but the Croatian got straight back on serve in the next game, securing it on the first of two more break points.

Vekic's serve remained shaky and she had to save break points in each of her service games, not helped by seven double faults in her first three service games.

Vekic tried to mix up her play, delicate drop shots and punishing forehand winners creating more openings on Sabalenka's serve.

But this version of Sabalenka, who has so often been unhinged by nerves in the past, refused to buckle and edged ahead again before taking a decisive break to lead 5-3.Vekic still had a chance to level as Sabalenka served for the set.

But she went just wide with an attempted forehand winner and Sabalenka prevailed 6-3 after a titanic 60-minute battle.

"I think just because I was calm and I kind of expect this game from her," said Sabalenka, 24.

"So I was able to stay in the game no matter what. So I think this was the key."

Sabalenka had the momentum and put the Vekic serve under more pressure at the start of the second set, stretching out to a double break for 3-0 as the Croat's double fault count soared to 12.

Sabalenka wobbled, serving two double faults and facing break points, as she had done on every service game, when serving for the match at 5-2.

After three deuces and with the tension rising, Sabalenka got over the line on her first match point.

- AFP

25 January 06:33

Unseeded Linette stuns Pliskova to make Australian Open semis

Unseeded Magda Linette marched into her first Grand Slam semi-final on Wednesday and said it was a "dream come true" after stunning former world number one Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 at the Australian Open.

Linette continued flying the flag for Poland after the shock exit of world number one Iga Swiatek, taking 1hr 27min to set up a clash with Aryna Sabalenka or Donna Vekic for a place in Saturday's final.

"I'm so emotional, I can't really believe it," Linette said. "It's a dream come true. I'm super grateful and happy. Thank you for cheering and supporting, I really needed this.

"So we keep going. I don't want to get too excited because we are still in the tournament," added the world number 45, who will break into the top 30 for the first time thanks to her exploits in Melbourne.

There was plenty of on-court history between the two 30-year-olds, having met nine times before with the Czech holding the advantage.

Pliskova, the 30th seed, won six of their first seven meetings up to 2017.

But last year she required a final set tie-break to win at the US Open before Linette turned the tables, winning 6-4, 6-1 at the Billie Jean King Cup.

It was Linette's first last-eight match at this level, but you wouldn't have known it as she coolly recovered from being an early break down against the big-serving Czech to take the first set in 35 minutes.

"I definitely stayed composed at the beginning because she had a really good break at the very start of the match," said Linette.

"I knew how tough it was going to be to break her back, so I just stayed really composed and I'm really happy that when I had my chance I took it.

"I'm glad that I managed to serve it out and then later on, when I had the opportunity to break her again, I took my chances."

Pliskova had by far the greater experience in Slams and was making her fourth appearance in the Australian quarter-finals.

She needed it to hold on in the second set at 3-3 when facing two break points.

The 6ft 1in (1.86m) tall Pliskova had swept into the last eight without dropping a set, largely on the back of serving 28 aces, including 12 in her last-eight romp past China's Zhang Shuai.

But she managed only seven in a stuttering display against Linette, committing a massive 36 unforced errors to her opponent's 16.

The decisive moment came on Pliskova's serve at 5-5 in the second set.

The Czech dished up two double faults at 15-15 and followed with a forehand into the net before Linette served out for the biggest win of her career.

"I will never forget this," said Linette. "That's, you know, the first time ever I'm breaking through. This will stay with me for life."

- AFP

24 January 14:45

Tsitsipas beats Lehecka to make Australian Open semi-finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas blasted into a fourth Australian Open semi-final on Tuesday and a showdown with Karen Khachanov as he zeroes in on a maiden Grand Slam title.

The Greek third seed proved too powerful for unseeded Czech Jiri Lehecka on Rod Laver Arena, storming home 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.

He will face the Russian 18th seed Khachanov for a place in his first Melbourne Park final, having crashed in the semis three times previously, including in the past two years.

Russia's Khachanov booked his place when American Sebastian Korda retired hurt with a wrist injury while trailing 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 3-0.

"It felt different this time from any other match and the most important thing in the end is that I found a solution," said Tsitsipas, who will become world number one should he win the title.

Novak Djokovic can also achieve the feat if he does the same.

"It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult so far in the competition," added Tsitsipas, 24.

"Jiri had a very good tournament, he's started playing very well recently. He's a great player.

"I had to deal with his groundstrokes, which were coming over the net much heavier and deeper, so that was a task where I really had to put my heart out there and give it my best," he added.

Lehecka, ranked 71, warned Tsitsipas before the match he wanted revenge after losing to him in the semi-finals at Rotterdam last year.

But the 21-year-old, who beat 11th seed Cameron Norrie and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the last eight, was immediately under the gun.

Tsitsipas worked five break points on his opening service game and got over the line when the Czech smacked a backhand volley wide.

He consolidated for a 3-0 lead and with his strong first serve offering Lehecka few opportunities to strike back, coasted to the first set in 36 minutes, sealing it with an ace.

Tsitsipas saved five break points to hold in a crucial third game of the second set as Lehecka came alive and began applying pressure.

Both players dug in and it went with serve to a tiebreak, where the Greek kept his cool to take an early advantage that he never gave up.

In a close third set, Tsitsipas's second double fault of the night handed Lehecka three break points in game seven.

But he saved them all to hold, pumping the air in celebration.

With the bit between his teeth, the Greek star dialed up the pressure as Lehecka served to stay in the contest and a crosscourt backhand earned him a match point which he converted.

- AFP

24 January 14:00

Kyrgios targets March return with knee surgery a 'great success'

Nick Kyrgios's knee surgery was a "great success" with the temperamental Australian targeting a return for the Indian Wells ATP Masters in March, his manager said on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old went under the knife in Canberra on Monday after pulling out of the Australian Open on the eve of the tournament, saying he was "devastated" to miss his home Grand Slam.

"The surgery was a great success," his manager Daniel Horsfall told the Melbourne Age newspaper.

"We couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome of it. Now we will be pushing ahead for a speedy recovery and are aiming to see everyone at Indian Wells."

Kyrgios, considered an outside chance of winning the Australian Open, had surgery to repair a small tear in his left lateral meniscus.

It had caused a cyst to grow in the piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the shin and thigh bones.

- AFP

24 January 12:13

Azarenka floors Pegula to reach Australian Open semi-finals

Victoria Azarenka reached her first Australian Open semi-final since winning the title in 2013 when she knocked out third seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 on Tuesday.

The Belarusian 24th seed outlasted her American opponent in a marathon 64-minute first set before running away with the second to set up a last-four encounter against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina at Melbourne Park.

"Well, it hurts to beat her because I always want her to do well," said Azarenka, 33, who also won the Australian Open in 2012 and is a close friend of Pegula's.

"But at the same time I have to play my best tennis. She has been playing amazing, very consistent. I knew from the first point I had to bring it."

Pegula was in her third Australian Open quarter-final and had never reached the semi-finals of a Slam in four previous attempts, failing to win a set in any of them.

It was a sorry statistic that was to be extended under the roof at Rod Laver Arena.

The 28-year-old is the epitome of a late bloomer, with 18 of her 30 Grand Slam match wins coming since the start of last year.

She had dropped only 18 games en route to the quarter-final, fewer than any other player left in the draw.

But Pegula was immediately put under the pump by the relentless groundstrokes of her opponent.

Azarenka's defence and her ability to put the pressure on during long rallies was all too evident in the first set.

Azarenka sped into an early 3-0 lead then forced Pegula to save six break points in an attritional 10-minute fourth game, before the American finally got on the scoreboard.

Pegula somehow still clung on. She saved two set points on her serve to get to 3-5 and two more in the next game, before turning the tables and breaking Azarenka to get back to 4-5.

Azarenka would not buckle, moving forward to take the ball early in Pegula's next service game.

The tactic brought her two more set points and this time the Belarusian succeeded on the first to take the opener 6-4 after 64 relentlessly physical minutes.

"We had so many rallies and I just wanted to try and stay there and take opportunities," said Azarenka.

"I'm very proud that I executed my game plan really well. It's so amazing to be in another semi-final of a Grand Slam."

Early breaks were exchanged in the second set before Azarenka made the decisive move.

She broke for 3-1 and held her own service game, with an increasingly frustrated Pegula complaining to her player's box.

"I don't know what to do. The ball's not going anywhere," she said.

Serving for the match Azarenka brought up two match points but only needed one as she powered through in 1hr 33min.

- AFP

24 January 10:55

Korda says could barely hold racquet in painful Australian Open exit

Sebastian Korda said he could barely hold the racquet before retiring in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday, but despite the disappointment is confident of "really big things" ahead.

The 22-year-old American hurt himself in the second set against Russia's Karen Khachanov and called it quits when trailing 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 3-0.

He said he first felt the injury while playing the Adelaide International this month, where he made the final and forced a championship point before being beaten by Novak Djokovic.

But it had not bothered him in the opening four rounds at Melbourne Park until he hit a return in the second set.

"I had it in Adelaide and then it went away completely. Now it just came back out of nowhere," he said.

"I have never had any wrist issues before.

"I knew kind of what it was right away, right when I hit the return. I kind of felt that spot that I was feeling before.

"Some forehands I couldn't even hold the racquet. Volleying was almost impossible for me, so it was a little tough."

Despite the pain of defeat, it was a hugely successful Australian Open for Korda, who made a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time.

Along the way he stunned two-time losing finalist and seventh seed Daniil Medvedev and world number 10 Hubert Hurkacz.

"There is a lot of positives. I mean, way more positives than even negatives," he said.

"Today was tough, but hopefully it's nothing serious and I can take care of it so I don't have it in the future.

"Still a great tournament. My first quarter-final in a Grand Slam. You know, I'm going to go forward with my head high and keep working."

Korda, whose father Petr won the title in 1998, said he took particular confidence from pushing Djokovic hard in Adelaide and beating top 10 players at Melbourne.

"A lot of confidence now. I mean, I have always been very close to winning the big matches, but now I'm getting through them," said the American, whose sisters Nelly and Jessica are both champion golfers.

"I think that's a huge lesson I have been learning, and going forward I'm really proud of myself.

"I'm going to keep on trying to do the same thing, keep on mentally being the same way. You know, I think I can do some really big things in the near future."

- AFP

24 January 08:02

Khachanov into Australian Open semi-finals after Korda retires

Karen Khachanov reached his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final on Tuesday when Sebastian Korda retired hurt at the Australian Open, ending the young American's dream of emulating his father Petr's 1998 title run.

Korda needed treatment on a wrist injury in the second set of their quarter-final before calling it quits when trailing 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 3-0 to the Russian 18th seed on Rod Laver Arena.

Khachanov's reward is a clash with either Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or unseeded Czech Jiri Lehecka, who play later, for a spot in Sunday's final.

Victory equals the 26-year-old's best performance at a major after his semi-final run during last September's US Open, where he lost to Norway's Casper Ruud.

The Olympic silver medallist, who has won four Tour-level titles, came into the match with far greater experience at this stage of a Grand Slam than Korda, having reached the last eight at all four majors.

In contrast, the 22-year-old Korda was in his first quarter-final.

Khachanov also had a far easier ride in the fourth round, routing Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka in straight sets while Korda slogged through a five-set thriller against Hubert Hurkacz.

"I think until a certain point it was very competitive, a very good battle," said Khachanov.

"He beat my friend Daniil (Medvedev) in three sets and won in five sets against Hurkacz so you know he is playing great. So applause to him.

"I'm feeling good to be honest and really happy about the way I'm competing," he added.

"I'm looking forward to the semi-finals here in Australia for the first time."

Khachanov, who reached a career-high ranking of eight in 2019, opened with a serve to love, then reeled off an easy break to go 2-0 clear with Korda's early nerves apparent.

The American finally got off the mark to hold for 3-1 when Khachanov flayed a cross-court forehand wide.

But with the Russian blasting down aces and winning more than 90 percent on his first serve, the chances to break back were few and far between.

However, a wayward backhand as Khachanov was serving for the set handed Korda his first break point opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands.

It went to a tie-break, where Khachanov held his nerve, sealing it on his third set point with a blistering backhand down the line.

Korda needed treatment on his right, serving, wrist at 3-2 in the second set. He returned with it strapped but was immediately broken.

The Russian consolidated and with Korda struggling, flexing his wrist between points, he broke again to take a two-set lead.

Korda left the court at the changeover, clearly in trouble. He continued but lost the opening 10 points of the third set before retiring.

- AFP

24 January 06:50

Wimbledon champion Rybakina races into Australian Open semi-finals

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina cruised into her first Australian Open semi-final with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko on Tuesday.

The 22nd seed raced past the former French Open champion, seeded 17, in 1hr 19min on Rod Laver Arena and will meet either American Jessica Pegula or Belarusian Victoria Azarenka for a place in the final.

"I'm super happy to be the first time in the semi-finals," said the Kazakh star. "It was an amazing atmosphere."

Rybakina had declared "she could beat anyone" after knocking out top seed Iga Swiatek in straight sets on Sunday.

And she was quickest out of the blocks behind her big serve, breaking Ostapenko immediately and hammering down three aces to reach 3-1.

She created another break point at 30-40 when a sudden cloudburst halted the 22nd seed's momentum.

The players scurried from Rod Laver Arena while the roof was closed and the water mopped up.

After a delay of almost half an hour, Ostapenko saw off the immediate danger. But she was powerless to prevent the aggressive Rybakina capturing a second break two points later.

Rybakina's serving got her out of trouble in the next at 15-40 and closed out the opening set in 32 minutes.

Ostapenko upped the power on her groundstrokes at the start of the second set, breaking for 2-0 with a scream.

But the calm Rybakina broke back and saved four more break points in the next to level at 2-2.Rybakina struck again in Ostapenko's next service game to put the finish line firmly in sight.

At 6-5 serving for the match, the normally assured Russian-born Kazakh saw two match points saved before her 11th ace sealed her progress .

"Of course I was nervous especially in the last game but not as nervous as before the match," she said. "So I'm super happy that I managed my emotions and I played really well today."

Ostapenko had won both their previous encounters - the last at Eastbourne in 2021 - and was also appearing in her first Australian Open quarter-final.

The 25-year-old has been working her way back to the top after admitting she found it hard to cope at 19 when her life was changed by winning the French Open.

After knocking out Coco Gauff in the fourth round, she said her confidence was back and she had "never doubted" she had the ability and drive to win another Slam.

But Rybakina was unstoppable as she chases her second Grand Slam crown in six months after triumphing on the grass at Wimbledon last July.

- AFP

23 January 13:56

'Best day so far' for Djokovic as injury worries fade

A ruthless Novak Djokovic on Monday ominously warned his hamstring injury was on the mend after his "best day so far" at the Australian Open as he surged into a 13th Melbourne Park quarter-final.

The Serbian fourth seed demolished Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena to move a step closer to a 10th Australian title and 22nd major crown.

With his left thigh again strapped, the 35-year-old was a man on a mission, expending as little energy as possible in a 2hrs 6mins romp to inch within sight of Rafael Nadal's slam record.

Djokovic aggravated his hamstring during his run to a 92nd title at the Adelaide International this month and has been struggling with it since.

But he moved freely against De Minaur to set up a clash with fifth seed Andrey Rublev for a semi-final berth after the Russian toppled Danish teen Holger Rune in a tense five-set clash on the same court.

"I didn't feel anything today, so today was great," Djokovic, who will return to world number one for the first time since June if he wins the tournament, said of the hamstring.

"I thank my medical team, physio, God - anybody that really helped me. I keep on going.

"Obviously I don't want to celebrate too early, I'm still in the tournament.

"I was feeling very good in the first match (in Melbourne), in the second match not so great, so I know things can change really quickly and I don't take things for granted.

"But I'm really pleased with the way I played today, the way I moved, the way I hit the ball. I played the best match of this year so far."

Djokovic added that he had been pumping himself full of anti-inflammatory pills "trying to mask the pain".

"But I had to find a way with my team. Today was the best day so far of the tournament and hopefully it stays that way."

Victory put him into a 13th Melbourne quarter-final to move fourth on the all-time list behind Roger Federer, Nadal and John Newcombe.

It is his 54th Grand Slam quarter-final in total - second only to the retired Federer's 58.

De Minaur, who recorded his first victory against a top-five player in November when he beat Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Masters, was always facing an uphill climb.

Djokovic has not lost in Melbourne since 2018 - he did not play in 2022 - and has now won 25 consecutive matches at the Australian Open.

"I came up against a very good opponent with a very high level today," said De Minaur.

"I think what I experienced today was probably Novak very close to his best, I would say. To me, if that's the level, I think he's definitely the guy that's going to take the title."

Djokovic always had the measure of the young Australian and broke to love in game six, consolidating without dropping a point for 5-2.

With De Minaur struggling under the pressure, he sent a baseline forehand long to hand the Serb another break and the set in just 35 minutes.

Only 54 percent of De Minaur's first serves went in, compared with Djokovic's 76 percent, with the winners 9-1 in favour of the dominant Serb.

De Minaur won the sixth game in the second set, ending a run of nine consecutive losses, but it was only a brief moment of respite.

Djokovic stretched his hamstring at the changeover and immediately applied pressure on De Minaur's first service game to break again in the third set, all but ending the match.

- AFP

23 January 13:32

Paul wins Australian Open 'war' to set up all-American quarter-final

Tommy Paul defeated 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut on Monday to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final and set up an all-American clash at the Australian Open.

The world number 35 outclassed an opponent ranked 10 places higher 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Margaret Court Arena in 3hrs 19mins.

He will face fellow unseeded American Ben Shelton for a place in the semi-finals after he beat another American, JJ Wolf, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.

With Sebastian Korda also through, the United States has the most men in the Melbourne Park final eight since 2000 when Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Chris Woodruff all got that far.

"That was a really physical tough match," said Paul, who has one career title, on hard courts in Stockholm in 2021."Any time you play Bautista it's going to be a war. I prepared for that match and I thought I executed it really well.

"I felt like I was running a lot though... so that wasn't a lot of fun, but happy to get through that one."

- AFP

23 January 13:19

Australian Open quarter-finals line-up (x denotes seed):

Men

Karen Khachanov (RUS x18) v Sebastian Korda (USA x29)

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x3) v Jiri Lehecka (CZE)

Andrey Rublev (RUS x5) v Novak Djokovic (SRB x4)

Ben Shelton (USA) v Tommy Paul (USA)

Women

Elena Rybakina (KAZ x22) v Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x17)

Jessica Pegula (USA x3) v Victoria Azarenka (BLR x24)

Karolina Pliskova (CZE x30) v Magda Linette (POL)

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x5) v Donna Vekic (CRO)

23 January 11:16

Shelton 'just hustling' on way to Australian Open quarter-finals

Ben Shelton's dream run at the Australian Open gathered pace on Monday with victory over JJ Wolf in an all-American clash as he became only the fourth man in the past 20 years to reach the quarter-finals on debut.

The unseeded 20-year-old - on his first trip outside the United States - prevailed 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in sapping heat on John Cain Arena.

Shelton is into the last eight in only his second appearance at a Grand Slam and will play either another unseeded American, Tommy Paul, or Spanish 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the semi-finals.

By reaching the last eight he joined just three other men to make the grade in Melbourne on debut over the past two decades - Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov (2011), American Tennys Sandgren (2018) and Russian Aslan Karatsev (2021).

"It was definitely a gruelling match. There were a lot of swings throughout the match," he said after the 3hrs 47mins marathon.

"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.

"Definitely always tough playing a friend. I've known JJ for a while. He's a great guy."

In his only previous Grand Slam appearance, as a wild card at the US Open last year, Shelton crashed out in the first round.

A year ago the left-hander was in college at the University of Florida and ranked 569 in the world, but he has risen to 89 with his reputation growing quickly.

Nothing separated them in the opening set with Shelton's one break point the highlight as it went to a tiebreak.

Ultimately, Wolf's power-hitting got him over the line.

Set two also began as a battle of small margins, but Shelton got the first break of the match in game six when Wolf netted a volley then slapped a forehand wide, breaking again as Wolf began wilting in the afternoon heat.

Wolf removed his shoes and left the court at the changeover, returning with new attire and footwear.

In a virtual carbon copy of the opening set, it went to a tie-break where Wolf again prevailed.

Shelton then took the fourth in another narrow tie-break before putting his foot to the floor in the fifth.

- AFP

23 January 10:26

Rublev comes through five-set epic to make Australian Open quarters

Never-say-die fifth seed Andrey Rublev saved two match points to topple Danish teen Holger Rune in a tense five-set clash on Monday, booking his place in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

In a battle of two former junior world number ones, the Russian broke when Rune was serving for the match, then saved two match points before winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (11/9) in sapping heat on Rod Laver Arena.

He will face either nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, who is struggling with a hamstring injury, or Australian hope Alex De Minaur for a place in the semi-finals.

The victory put the 25-year-old into the Melbourne quarter-finals for a second time and for a seventh time at Grand Slams.

Despite being world number six Rublev, who has won 13 ATP titles, has never been further.

"It's not like a rollercoaster, it's like they put a gun to your head. A rollercoaster is easier," said the exhausted Russian after the 3hrs 37mins epic.

"I think I was never able to win matches like this and this was the first time ever that I won something like this to be in the quarter-final.

"I was 5-2 down in the fifth, at 6-5 two match points and then 7-3 [behind] on a super tie-break. I have no words, I'm shaking."

With both players less-than-clinical on serve, Rublev broke the Dane with a forehand winner to take a 4-2 grip in the first set.

But Rune's returns helped create chances and he broke straight back when Rublev played into the net from the baseline.

A Rune double-fault immediately handed the advantage back to his opponent and this time Rublev made no mistakes in serving out the set in 37 minutes.

Undaunted, Rune clung on in a see-sawing 12-minute opening game in set two and turned the tables to break Rublev for a 3-1 lead, which he never relinquished.

With the sun blazing down, Rublev pounced in the sixth game of the next set, opening up three break point opportunities and he made the most of them.

Down two sets to one, Rune called a trainer for what appeared to be a blood pressure test, but unperturbed got back to work and broke for 4-2 and took it to a fifth.

In a battle of attrition, Rune ground down Rublev to move to 5-2 in the decider, but he failed to serve out for the match.

Rublev then saved two match points to take it to the 10-point tie-breaker, where he bounced back from 5-0 and 7-3 down for a gutsy win.

- AFP

23 January 07:31

SA duo Harris and Klaasen bow out Australian Open 3rd round

Lloyd Harris and Raven Klaasen were knocked out in the third round of the men's doubles at the Australian Open on Monday.

The South Africans were outclassed 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) by Marcel Granollers (Spain) and Horacio Zeballos (Argentina).

READ more here...

23 January 07:03

Australian Open women's quarter-finals line-up (x denotes seed):

Elena Rybakina (KAZ x22) v Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x17)

Jessica Pegula (USA x3) v Victoria Azarenka (BLR x24)

Karolina Pliskova (CZE x30) v Magda Linette (POL)

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x5) v Donna Vekic (CRO)

23 January 06:48

Poland's Linette shocks fourth seed Garcia 

Caroline Garcia was knocked out of the Australian Open in the fourth round on Monday by Magda Linette, becoming the latest top seed to suffer an early exit at the first Grand Slam of the year.

Poland's Linette outfought the French world number four 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

The 45th-ranked Linette gave a sizeable contingent of red-and-white-clad Polish fans on Rod Laver Arena plenty to cheer, just 24 hours after they witnessed countrywoman and top seed Iga Swiatek being bundled out.

Linette, 30, had never before gone past the third round at the Australian Open in six previous attempts.

She was almost overcome after reaching her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final in 1hr 57min.

"I don't really believe it," she said. "I still can't believe it, I don't know what happened.

"I'm speechless, really. I don't know what to say.

"But I don't want to say I didn't expect it, because coming on the court I was confident in how well I'm playing," added Linette, who has now knocked out the 19th, 16th and fourth seeds.

Garcia had endured a 2hr 10min battle just to get to the fourth round and avoid a massive upset against world number 158 Laura Siegemund.

But she started the first set well, breaking immediately, but the gritty Linette hung on and refused to lie down.

Garcia started to become more erratic and nerves kicked in as she served for the set at 5-4.A double fault gave Linette a break-back point, the Frenchwoman saving it with a crosscourt winner.

But Linette was rewarded for her tenacity with a second chance and this time Garcia went long off a forehand.

In the tie-break, Linette was again the more solid and took it with ease, tellingly committing just eight unforced errors in the entire set against Garcia's mounting tally of 19.

"She's such an amazing opponent, such a tough one, especially on the big stage," said Linette.

"I'm just glad I stayed composed throughout the whole first set and managed to come back again."

The second set was another tight affair, Linette grabbing the crucial break at 4-4 and serving out for one of the biggest wins of her career.

She will now face former world number one and Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic for a place in the semi-final after the 30th seed served 12 aces in a 55-minute straight-sets romp against Chinese veteran Zhang Shuai.

- AFP

23 January 06:44

Sabalenka blows away Bencic to reach first Australian Open quarter-final

Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka was in unstoppable mood on Monday as she sprinted into her maiden quarter-final at the Australian Open, blowing away Belinda Bencic with a brutal display of power hitting.

The Belarusian fifth seed won 7-5, 6-2 in 1hr 27min on Rod Laver Arena to set up a last-eight clash against either Donna Vekic or Linda Fruhvirtova.

Sabalenka was troubled only once in the match, dropping her serve early in the first set to the Swiss 12th seed.

But she demonstrated her new-found mental steel, all too often missing from her game in the past, to calmly break back and take the initiative.

"My whole life, it took me a little while to understand that negative emotion is not going to help you on court," said Sabalenka, who reached the US Open semi-final last season but had never been beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park before.

"You have to just stay strong and believe no matter what and then do everything you can.

"So just super happy with the mind set during the game today. Yeah, I did a wonderful job."

Sabalenka and Bencic have both been on a roll this year in Australia and came into the first Grand Slam of the year as the form players.

They each won titles in Adelaide this month, both were yet to drop a set in Melbourne before the last-16 showdown, and both were on seven-match unbeaten runs.

The Belarusian had taken just 74 minutes to rip past her former doubles partner Elise Mertens in the previous round.

Bencic, of Switzerland, was just as dominant in her 6-2, 7-5 victory over Italy's Camila Giorgi.

The pair exchanged early breaks in a high-quality first set which ended on a sour note for Bencic, who blinked first under relentless pressure from Sabalenka.

At 5-6, Sabalenka hammered a forehand return winner past the Swiss to bring up two set points, only for Bencic to serve her fourth double fault and gift the advantage to her higher-ranked opponent after 52 minutes.

At 2-1 in the second, Sabalenka increased the intensity again, pummelling deep returns.

Bencic, no slouch herself when it comes to hitting a tennis ball hard, was forced into the retreat.

The Swiss again faltered on break point, this time serving her seventh double fault.

Sabalenka sensed the finish line approaching, powering down a fourth ace next game to extend her lead to 4-1.

The end soon followed, another forehand winner sealing a second break and the match.

- AFP

22 January 15:05

Tsitsipas survives five-set test to make Australian Open quarters

Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a huge scare Sunday to battle into a third consecutive Australian Open quarter-final and a showdown with Czech surprise package Jiri Lehecka.

The Greek star extended his win streak this year to eight matches with a gutsy 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 triumph over dangerous Italian 15th seed Jannik Sinner on Rod Laver Arena as the clock ticked over four hours.

Victory teed him up with a clash against Lehecka for a place in the semis after the Czech 21-year-old stunned sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/3).

That upset put Lehecka into the last eight at a Grand Slam for the first time after being knocked out in the first round at all four majors last year.

"It was a long match, I felt like I spent an entire century on this court playing tennis," said Tsitsipas, the highest remaining men's seed.

"What a great night. That was superb, a ripper as they say here.

"I'm really excited to be sharing moments like this on the court, especially in Australia."

Tsitsipas, who lost in the 2022 semi-finals to eventual runner-up Daniil Medvedev, is playing for a double prize this year -- not only a maiden major title but also the number one ranking.

That will be his if he lifts the trophy in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic, who he cannot meet before the final, can also become the world's top-ranked player should he be crowned for a 10th time.

If neither player wins, Spain's injured Carlos Alcaraz will keep the top spot.

Tsitsipas led Sinner 4-1 in their head-to-heads leading into the match, including victory in the Melbourne quarter-finals last year, but it proved to be tough test for the Greek.

He dropped his first sets of the tournament before fighting to victory.

He stated his intent by breaking Sinner in the first game thanks to a baseline error from the Italian.

Tsitsipas then saved four break points in the next game to keep the advantage and went on to seal the first set.

It went with serve in the second until the Greek pounced for 5-4 with a sizzling cross-court forehand then served it out in 46 minutes to take control.

But Sinner came storming back, with Tsitsipas saving six break points before finally succumbing to fall 3-1 behind and lose the set.

Sinner was fired up and constantly threatening, converting his second break point when Tsitsipas sent a forehand wide to move 2-1 clear in the fourth set.

The Greek star had no answers and it went to a fifth set.

Sinner saved three break points in the fourth game, but when Tsitsipas worked three more on his opponent's next service game, he made no mistake.

The third seed moved 4-2 clear and ultimately got over the line for the win.

-AFP

22 January 13:15

Australian Open 'void' as big-name casualties mount

Novak Djokovic ploughs on with a bad hamstring but the 2023 Australian Open will already be remembered for the sheer number of shocks and an absence of "star" names.

Iga Swiatek's defeat on Sunday makes it the first Grand Slam since the Open era began in 1968 to lose the top two seeds in both the men's and women's draws before the quarter-finals.

Halfway through the tournament, fans stop to snap pictures with a large poster of Rafael Nadal on display at Melbourne Park but the man himself is long gone.

The top men's seed and defending champion looked far from his brilliant best in his opening match and then went out in the second round to unseeded American Mackenzie McDonald.

The 36-year-old Nadal, who has a record 22 major crowns to his name, was badly hampered by a hip injury as he bowed out in straight sets on Wednesday.

"Definitely there's kind of a void," said spectator Rob Duff, after photographing his son next to the image of the Spanish great.

"The Australian tennis fans, we love to see the big names, and when they are out, it takes (away) a little bit of the tournament."

The first Grand Slam of the year is barely into its second week, but the die was cast even before a ball was hit.

Two greats of the game, Serena Williams and Roger Federer, retired last year and, despite the American hinting she could make a return to tennis, she was never expected in Australia.

Another big miss, especially for home fans, was the reigning women's champion Ashleigh Barty. The Australian retired in March last year while the dominant number one.

More big names fell by the wayside in the days before the tournament. Injured men's number one Carlos Alcaraz pulled out, then so did two-time Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka.

There were fears the 25-year-old former world number one might quit tennis altogether, but Osaka later clarified that she was pregnant and expects to return to the court in 2024.

The first day of the Grand Slam saw yet another popular figure withdraw without even stepping on court.

Australian showman Nick Kyrgios, the Wimbledon finalist and a crowd favourite, said he had a knee problem that would require minor surgery.

"I'm devastated, obviously," he told a hastily arranged news conference.

When an already depleted Australian Open began, many high-profile players just kept losing.

Men's second seed Casper Ruud followed Nadal out in round two, as did the women's second seed Ons Jabeur.

Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who reached the finals at the last two Australian Opens, was next to go when he lost in round three.

It has left Stefanos Tsitsipas as the highest-ranking men's seed left at three and in with a big chance to win his first Grand Slam.

Nine-time Melbourne champion Djokovic will have a lot to say about that, but the Serb is struggling with his left hamstring ahead of his last-16 meeting with Alex de Minaur.

On yet another day of surprises Sunday, top women's seed Swiatek and seventh seed Coco Gauff were both dumped out, promptly followed in the men's draw by sixth seed Felix Auger Aliassime.

Holger Rune, the surviving ninth seed from Denmark, said the results were proof of the high standard in men's tennis.

"I see every match is tough and I have to be at 100 percent because everybody is playing amazing," said the 19-year-old.

-AFP

22 January 10:29

Lehecka stuns Auger-Aliassime as another seed falls in Melbourne

Jiri Lehecka stunned Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday to surge into the Australian Open quarter-finals in only his fifth Grand Slam appearance as yet another seed fell.

The 21-year-old Czech was knocked out in the first round at the four majors last year but was too hot for the sixth-seeded Canadian on Margaret Court Arena, winning 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/3).

It was his first defeat ever of a top-10 player and built on his victories over ATP Masters 1000 champions Borna Coric and Cameron Norrie in earlier rounds.

22 January 10:06

'Frustrated' Gauff breaks down in tears after Australian Open exit

Coco Gauff broke down in tears during an emotional press conference following her surprise exit from the Australian Open at the last-16 stage on Sunday.

The 18-year-old usually cuts a composed figure under the glare of the world's media, despite her tender age.

But it all became too much when asked about the frustration she felt during her 7-5, 6-3 fourth-round defeat to Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion.

"I worked really hard and I felt really good coming into the tournament, and I still feel good," Gauff told reporters.

"I still feel like I've improved a lot. But, you know, when you play a player like her and she plays really well, it's like there's nothing you can do."

The prodigiously talented American, who must now wait at least a bit longer for a first major crown, added: "I feel like today I would say nothing because every match you play a part in, but I feel like it was rough."

"So it's a little bit frustrating on that part."

Her voice suddenly began to crack, the tears flowed and the teenager was offered a tissue, before saying: "I'm OK. We can keep going."

Gauff gathered herself to say she would now be supporting her doubles partner Jessica Pegula, who was later playing another former French Open champion, Barbora Krejcikova, for a place in the last eight.

"I hope that she continues well in the tournament now that I'm out," Gauff smiled.

"I hope she wins it."

Gauff and Pegula, the women's doubles second seeds, will play for a place in the quarter-finals Monday against Miyu Kato of Japan and Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia. 

-AFP

22 January 10:03

Korda upsets Hurkacz to reach maiden Grand Slam quarter-final

Giantkiller Sebastian Korda clawed into a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final Sunday with a five set upset of 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz to keep his hopes alive of matching father Petr's Australian Open exploits.

The American 29th seed came out on top of a rollercoaster 10-point deciding tiebreak to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (10/7) at Rod Laver Arena.

He will play Russia's Karen Khachanov for a place in the semi-finals after the 18th seed crushed Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0, 6-0, 7-6 (7/4).

Korda, whose father Petr won the title in 1998, had produced one of the performances of his career to upset two-time Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev in the third round.

And he dug deep after a slow start to claim another big-name win.

"Awesome, I couldn't have done it without (the crowd), they pushed me through," he said.

"I wasn't feeling too much energy towards the fourth and the fifth but they picked me up.

"I just tried to stay as calm as I possibly could," he added.

"It was a late night match before (against Medvedev) but today was daytime and different conditions. But I'm very happy, the outcome's good."

Defeat was a bitter pill for Hurkacz, who was aiming to become the first Polish man ever to reach the Melbourne Park quarter-finals.

The Pole took immediate charge on a hot day to break and race through the opening set.

But Korda woke up and hauled himself back into the contest, improving his first serve percentage while cutting down on unforced errors.

He worked a break to move 3-2 clear and held on to take the second set.

With Hurkacz on the back foot, the American kept the pressure on and raced into a 4-0 lead in set three, but lost his focus as the fourth set got underway.

The Pole won five games in a row to take the set to a decider, where they went toe-to-toe until the drama-filled tiebreak.

- AFP

22 January 08:10

'I wanted it too hard, I need to chill' says stunned Swiatek

World number one Iga Swiatek said she had felt the pressure and needed to "chill", after suffering a stunning exit in the Australian Open last 16 on Sunday.

The Pole came into Melbourne Park as a red-hot favourite for the first Grand Slam of the year, but was overpowered in straight sets by Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina at Rod Laver Arena.

The 21-year-old Swiatek admitted she buckled under the weight of expectation as her dream of a fourth major crown - but first in Australia - was shattered.

"Well, for sure, past two weeks have been pretty hard for me," a downcast Swiatek told reporters"I felt today that I don't have that much left to fight even more," she said.

"I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard.

"So I'm going to try to chill out a little bit more."

Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, whose power game proved too much for the normally rock-solid Swiatek, now faces a quarter-final against Jelena Ostapenko.

The Latvian 17th seed provided the second upset of a crazy few minutes at Melbourne Park by knocking out Coco Gauff 7-5, 6-3 on the neighbouring Margaret Court Arena.

Swiatek dominated women's tennis in 2022 after the retirement of last year's Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty, at one point going on a 37-match unbeaten streak to become the woman everyone wants to beat.

"I felt the pressure," Swiatek admitted. "I felt that I didn't want to lose instead of wanting to win."

The 6ft tall (1.82m) Rybakina always seemed to be in control of the match, particularly once her first serve, one of the fastest in the women's game, got into gear.

"Elena was the one that was more solid today and I felt like it was more about who is going to put more pressure on, and she did that pretty well," said Swiatek.

Rybakina, the 22nd seed, slapped down six aces to Swiatek's two and fired home 24 winners to the Pole's 15."She served, you know, as she does usually," said Swiatek.

"I wanted to put it back on her, but on my service games I felt like I need to just work really, really hard to get any point because my first serve wasn't working."

Swiatek said she would strive to recapture her stunning form of 2022.

"For sure I need to work on my mindset and fight a little bit more, as I did last season," she said."I'm going to take time right now to kind of reset."

- AFP

(Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

<p><strong>'I wanted it too hard, I need to chill' says stunned Swiatek</strong></p><p>World number one Iga Swiatek said she had felt the pressure and needed to "chill", after suffering a stunning exit in the Australian Open last 16 on Sunday.</p><p>The Pole came into Melbourne Park as a red-hot favourite for the first Grand Slam of the year, but was overpowered in straight sets by Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina at Rod Laver Arena.</p><p>The 21-year-old Swiatek admitted she buckled under the weight of expectation as her dream of a fourth major crown - but first in Australia - was shattered.</p><p>"Well, for sure, past two weeks have been pretty hard for me," a downcast Swiatek told reporters"I felt today that I don't have that much left to fight even more," she said.</p><p>"I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard.</p><p>"So I'm going to try to chill out a little bit more."</p><p>Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, whose power game proved too much for the normally rock-solid Swiatek, now faces a quarter-final against Jelena Ostapenko.</p><p>The Latvian 17th seed provided the second upset of a crazy few minutes at Melbourne Park by knocking out Coco Gauff 7-5, 6-3 on the neighbouring Margaret Court Arena.</p><p>Swiatek dominated women's tennis in 2022 after the retirement of last year's Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty, at one point going on a 37-match unbeaten streak to become the woman everyone wants to beat.</p><p>"I felt the pressure," Swiatek admitted. "I felt that I didn't want to lose instead of wanting to win."</p><p>The 6ft tall (1.82m) Rybakina always seemed to be in control of the match, particularly once her first serve, one of the fastest in the women's game, got into gear.</p><p>"Elena was the one that was more solid today and I felt like it was more about who is going to put more pressure on, and she did that pretty well," said Swiatek.</p><p>Rybakina, the 22nd seed, slapped down six aces to Swiatek's two and fired home 24 winners to the Pole's 15."She served, you know, as she does usually," said Swiatek.</p><p>"I wanted to put it back on her, but on my service games I felt like I need to just work really, really hard to get any point because my first serve wasn't working."</p><p>Swiatek said she would strive to recapture her stunning form of 2022.</p><p>"For sure I need to work on my mindset and fight a little bit more, as I did last season," she said."I'm going to take time right now to kind of reset."</p><p>- <em>AFP</em></p><p>(Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)<em></em></p>

22 January 07:20

Gauff crashes out as Ostapenko makes Australian Open quarter-finals

Coco Gauff's Australian Open ended Sunday after the 18-year-old American prodigy was beaten in straight sets by former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round.

Ostapenko edged a tight battle 7-5, 6-3 in an 1hr 33min on Margaret Court Arena to reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park for the first time.

The Latvian will now face Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who blew the women's draw wide open by knocking out world number one Iga Swiatek a few minutes earlier on Rod Laver Arena.

"I knew she's such a great player, super young and she's playing really well but I really had nothing to lose," said Ostapenko, who won at Roland Garros in 2017 and earned her fifth WTA Tour tile in Dubai last year.

"I just went there and tried to show my best and try to fight for every point and to make it hard for her and I'm really happy with the way I played."

Ostapenko, whose last Grand Slam quarter-final came at Wimbledon in 2018, has endured some tough injury-hit years since and had never before beaten a player ranked inside the top-10 at the Australian Open.

"I was trying to stay positive all the time," said Ostapenko. "And I knew I have to play aggressive, even if I miss some balls."

Gauff had not dropped a set on the way to the last 16 and the match was a tight affair, with little to choose between the pair.

But it was the 25-year-old Ostapenko who played the crucial points better, pouncing at the end of each set.

She broke Gauff at 6-5 to take the first, then again at 4-3 in the second.

"At the end, I think I kept her under so much pressure and it brought me a win," said Ostapenko.

AFP

22 January 07:15

World number one Iga Swiatek knocked out of Australian Open

World number one Iga Swiatek was knocked out of the Australian Open in the fourth round on Sunday, losing a showdown of current Grand Slam champions to Elena Rybakina in straight sets.

Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon winner from Kazakhstan, beat Swiatek, the French and US Open champion, 6-4, 6-4 in 1hr 29min on Rod Laver Arena to advance to the quarter-finals.

"It was a really tough match and I really respect Iga," said Rybakina, the 22nd seed.

"She's a young player and think she played really well," she added of the 21-year-old from Poland.

"It's a big win and I'm just happy to get to another round."

Rybakina will face either seventh Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals.

Swiatek led 40-0 on her opening service game and 15-40 on Rybakina's delivery in the next.

But it was the 6ft (1.84m) tall Russian-born player who showed her resilience and power to win both for an early 2-0 lead.

The Pole composed herself to hold in the next and then went on the attack, creating three break points and converting the first when Rybakina went long to level the set at 2-2.At 3-3, 30-30, Swiatek's first double fault gave Rybakina another chance which she seized with a sizzling backhand crosscourt return.

The Wimbledon champion comfortably served out, powering down her fourth ace on her first set point to move ahead after 42 minutes.

The 23-year-old Rybakina had been on court for more than two hours and taken to a third set 10-point tiebreak as she knocked out last year's finalist Danielle Collins in the third round.

By contrast, Swiatek dropped just one game and did not face a break point during her last-round romp past Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa.

Swiatek stepped up at start of the second set, attacking off her forehand and broke immediately for 2-0 to chants of "Iga, Iga" from a small, but noisy, contingent of Polish fans clad in red and white.

The cries were short-lived.Rybakina broke to love at 1-3 as Swiatek's first serve deserted her. Rybakina, by contrast, was now firing down serves with power and accuracy, her fifth ace helping her to level at 3-3.

"I think I was serving good and just struggling a bit on one side," said the composed Rybakina.

"But in the important moments I played really well and that made the difference."

Swiatek had won the pair's only previous meeting in straight sets at Ostrava in 2021.

But history counted for nothing against the confident Kazakh who forced Swiatek to save two break points at 4-4.

A sixth forehand winner of the match from Rybakina created a third, which she took when the Pole netted and served out with ease to take the match.

- AFP

21 January 23:40

SA duo Harris and Klaasen steamroll on at Australian Open

Lloyd Harris and Raven Klaasen continued their winning ways in the Australian Open men's doubles event on Saturday.

The South African duo triumphed 6-4, 6-4 in the second round over French pair Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul.

READ more here

21 January 14:57

Results from Day 6 of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament at Melbourne Park on Saturday:

Men's singles: 3rd round

- Andrey Rublev (RUS x5) bt Daniel Evans (GBR x25) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3
- Holger Rune (DEN x9) bt Ugo Humbert (FRA) 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5)
- Alex De Minaur (AUS x22) bt Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 6-1
- Novak Djokovic (SRB x4) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x27) 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4
- Ben Shelton (USA) bt Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4
- Jeffrey Wolf (USA) bt Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
- Roberto Bautista (ESP x24) bt Andy Murray (GBR) 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 6-4
- Tommy Paul (USA) bt Jenson Brooksby (USA) 6-1, 6-4, 6-3

Women's singles: 3rd round

- Karolina Pliskova (CZE x30) bt Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 6-4, 6-2
- Zhang Shuai (CHN x23) bt Katie Volynets (USA) 6-3, 6-2
- Caroline Garcia (FRA x4) bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 1-6, 6-3, 6-3
- Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x5) bt Elise Mertens (BEL x26) 6-2, 6-3
- Belinda Bencic (SUI x12) bt Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-2, 7-5
- Donna Vekic (CRO) bt Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP) 6-2, 6-2
- Linda Fruhvirtova (CZE) bt Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 7-5, 2-6, 6-3

21 January 14:40

Djokovic battles past Dimitrov to stay on course at Australian Open

An ailing Novak Djokovic ground past Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday and into the last 16 as the nine-time Australian Open champion edged closer to a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title.

The Serbian fourth seed came through a titanic 77-minute first set before taming the Bulgarian 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena, needing treatment twice on his troublesome hamstring.

He will face home hope Alex de Minaur for a place in the quarter-finals after the 22nd seed equalled his best result at the tournament by breezing past Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 6-1.

Djokovic's win not only inched him nearer to equalling Rafael Nadal's 22-Slam record but also to a 10th title, which would see him return to world number one for the first time since June.

Victory put him into the last 16 for a 15th time, equalling Nadal in second place on the Open-era list for appearances in the Australian Open fourth round behind Roger Federer's 18."Every point, every game mattered," he said.

"I think the turning point for both players was right from the blocks, very first game making an early break for me was important.

"Obviously, I didn't know how I'm going to feel physically, it was going up and down.

"It was an incredible battle, three sets over three hours. Let's rest up and prepare for the next one."

Djokovic aggravated his hamstring during his run to a 92nd title at the Adelaide International this month and has been struggling with it since.

He came into the match without his usual off-day practice session to give his leg as much time as possible to recover.

With his left thigh again heavily strapped, the Serb broke immediately and consolidated to take an early grip on the first set.

He was cruising but appeared to feel the injury when moving for a shot at 5-3. He managed to earn three set points, which were saved, but was then broken when serving for the set at 5-4.

Agitated, he complained to the umpire about being given a time violation and was then forced to save two set points before an epic tiebreak.

He eventually got over the line on his fifth set point, having saved another one from the Bulgarian 27th seed, after some intense tennis.

Djokovic took a medical timeout at the changeover and returned to dial up the pressure and take a break before comfortably seeing out the second set.

With Dimitrov flagging, he turned the screws further by breaking twice early in set three and, despite a mid-set wobble when the Bulgarian clawed back and then more treatment on his leg, he battled to the finish line.

De Minaur, who is gunning to make his first quarter-final at Melbourne Park, now awaits after having little trouble getting past Bonzi.

The Australian said he was up for the challenge."These are the matches you want to be playing," he said. "I'm gonna probably have the best in the world in front of me, and I'm ready for the battle."

21 January 14:36

Murray's heroic Australian Open run over in round three

Andy Murray's 4:05 am finish eventually caught up with him at the Australian Open as the Briton bowed out in typically defiant style to Roberto Bautista Agut in round three on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Murray was clearly feeling the effects of his epic five-setter in round two, which started on Thursday but ended in the early hours of Friday.

The 24th-seeded Spaniard Bautista won 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 6-4 and faces unseeded Tommy Paul of the United States in the last 16. Former world number one Murray, who has a metal hip following career-saving surgery four years ago, was 3-0 down in a flash in the first set.

But the three-time Grand Slam champion had Margaret Court Arena firmly in his corner, and a huge cheer went up when he finally got on the board, holding serve for 3-1.

It was to be only a temporary reprieve as the Spaniard raced away with the first set in a lopsided 29 minutes. Murray held serve to start the second set but he appeared sluggish, having been forced to five sets in both his previous matches.

The epic five-setter in round two against Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis lasted a gruelling five hours and 45 minutes -- the longest match of Murray's storied career.

He committed a double fault to go 2-1 behind in the second set to Bautista, Murray letting out a howl of frustration. Five-time Australian Open runner-up Murray has made a career of dramatic comebacks and he threatened one again as he broke back for 4-4, to the delight of the crowd.

Murray does not know when to quit. His opponent then had two set points in the second-set tie break, only for Murray to roar back to win 9-7 and claim the set. Bautista got the break to claim the third set, but Murray would not go away in the fourth, even as the match stretched past three hours on court.

Then came the killer blow as the 34-year-old Bautista broke Murray for a 5-4 lead, then sealed the deal on his first match point when the Briton fired a return into the net.

- AFP

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