MELBOURNE — Novak Djokovic has now won a staggering 25 matches in a row at the Australian Open, easing aside home favourite Alex De Minaur on Monday night to complete the quarter-final line-up.
The tournament is into a more routine rhythm after the late-night chaos of the first week replaced by the more rarefied atmosphere of the second.
Jessica Pegula said she was particularly happy because the locker room is now less crowded and she is right: of the 256 singles players who started the fortnight with a dream, only 16 remain. Everyone can spread out a bit more.
But who is going to be packing their bags and who is here until the weekend? i has a look at the remaining quarter-final match-ups…
- Karen Khachanov (18) vs Sebastian Korda (29)
- Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs Jiri Lehecka
- Andrey Rublev (5) vs Novak Djokovic (4)
- Ben Shelton vs Tommy Paul
- Khachanov vs Tstsipas
- Djokovic vs Paul
Khachanov vs Korda
It is a sign of the gradient that 22-year-old Korda is on that he has won the last two encounters between these two without dropping a set. When they first met – at Wimbledon in 2021 – it was a ding-dong battle that ended in a horribly tight fifth set that featured a staggering 13 breaks of serve in 18 games, with Khachanov finally triumphing 10-8.
Korda is in no way the same player that lost on grass that day, with a whole new coaching team headed up by the animated Radek Stepanek and boasts Andre Agassi as a mentor.
How fresh the American is may be a determining factor: Hubert Hurkacz pushed him all the way to a deciding tie-break in the fourth round. By contrast, Khachanov won 14 straight games in a one-sided encounter with Yoshihito Nishioka.
- Korda has won all three of his previous matches against top-20 players at the Australian Open
- By making the quarter-finals, Khachanov has become the 10th active male player to reach the quarter-finals at all four grand slam tournaments, and 50th man in the Open Era to do so
- If Korda wins, along with the winner of all-American clash Shelton vs Paul, it will be the first time that multiple US men have reached the semifinals at the Australian Open since 2003, when Roddick and Andre Agassi both reached the semi-finals
Tsitsipas vs Lehecka
In an era when the “Next Generation” are a relentless focus of the narrative, with fans desperately asking who will replace the retired Roger Federer and the eventually retiring Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, it is easy to forget that there is a next *next* generation growing up behind them.
Jiri Lehecka is one of these, 21 years old and flying up the world rankings: this run has already jumped him from 71 in the world to 39 and beating Tsitsipas would fire him up another 10 places.
Doing so would mean levelling up their head-to-head record. Tsitsipas came from a set down to beat Lehecka in Rotterdam last year, conditions that might not be too dissimilar to the heavy, humid ones players will experience in a late-night session on Rod Laver.
“[In Rotterdam] One set I was the better player on the court. Then he overtook the match,” Lehecka said after reaching the last eight by upsetting Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“But I think that he will remember, and he will know what my strengths are. He will feel that I can get him under the pressure.”
The match will be won and lost on the forehand wing, the weapon both men prepare, although the Czech player is probably a bit more balanced. Like his Greek rival, Lehecka will also lean on his first serve, behind which he is winning 77 per cent of points.
- Tsitsipas has won all five of his previous grand slam quarter-final matches
- Lehecka would become just the 5th Czech player in history to reach the men’s singles semi-finals in Australia if he wins
- At 24 years 170 days, Tsitsipas is bidding to become the youngest Australian Open men’s singles champion since Djokovic won the title here in 2011 aged 23 years 253 days
Rublev vs Djokovic
Andrey Rublev would not have chosen to play five sets 48 hours before taking on the nine-time champion but there is a decent chance that the adrenaline will not have worn off from saving match points against Holger Rune in the fourth round.
The Dane served for the match at 5-3 in the fifth set but was broken to love, and then had two match points on the Rublev serve at 5-6. The Russian fluffed three match points of his own in the tie-break but did finally get over the line at 11-9, a dead net cord lending an air of fortune to a match that hung in the balance.
Djokovic could hardly have had a more different passage to the quarter-finals, biffing Alex De Minaur, much to the disappointment of about half the Melbourne crowd.
Rublev will be hoping his own clash with Djokovic is not similarly one-sided, although the signs are not positive: their last meeting, at the ATP World Tour Finals in Turin last November, saw the Russian win just five games in a straight-sets drubbing.
Shelton vs Paul
Before Ben Shelton jumped on a plane to start his preparations for the Australian Open, the 20-year-old had – staggeringly – never even been outside the United States.
Since broadening his horizons though, he has catapulted himself up into the top 70 in the rankings and become the first player since Arthur Ashe in 1966 to win the US college singles title and then reach the last eight of the next Australian Open.
He will also be party to a bit more history in the last eight; by beating Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets, Tommy Paul guaranteed that there would be an American man in the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time since Andy Roddick in 2009.