Novak Djokovic mauls Adrian Mannarino to race into Australian Open quarter-finals

World No 1 sets up a last-eight clash with Taylor Fritz, while Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff stay on course for a semi-final showdown

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Novak Djokovic described his Australian Open fourth-round match against Adrian Mannarino on Sunday as "cat and mouse" – an analogy that only really fits if Djokovic views himself as a bloodthirsty lion, such was the mauling dished out on Rod Laver Arena.

It took the defending champion a mere one hour and 44 minutes to charge into the quarter-finals with a resounding 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 victory that will no doubt turn the heads of his remaining rivals. As usual, Djokovic is getting better as the tournament progresses, even as he's dealing with physical ailments; he arrived at Melbourne Park with a niggling wrist issue and is now battling an illness.

The viral infection appeared to affect Djokovic, who was coughing and breathing heavily at times during the match. After winning eight straight games, the Serb was tested in a marathon ninth and frequently hunched over between points to catch his breath.

It could have been a sliding doors moment had Mannarino capitalised. Instead, Djokovic did what he often does and slammed that door shut before racing into a two-set lead on his way to the most comfortable of victories.

"The first two sets were some of the best sets I've played in a while," Djokovic, 36, said on court. "I really didn't want to lose that third game in the second set because the tension was building inside the stadium. I just needed to get that one out of the way so I could refocus on what I needed to do to close out the match.

Djokovic, the record 10-time Australian Open champion, was always going to be the heavy favourite against a player he has beaten on all four previous occasions, although at a career-high No 19 in the world, Mannarino has been enjoying a resurgence.

However, the French 19th seed was taught a lesson by the world No 1, who is through to the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the 58th time, equalling Roger Federer's men's record.

"It's never easy to play Adrian, who is a very unorthodox player, he uses the angles pretty well and has one of the most consistent backhands in the game. It was kind of a cat-and-mouse tennis match against him, so I had to endure the long rallies and run around the court ... all in all a great performance."

Djokovic almost always plays the night session on Rod Laver Arena, but was bumped to the afternoon on Sunday. That's because home hope Alex de Minaur, seeded 10, is bidding to make the last eight for the first time, with Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev standing in his way.

"I don't mind playing in the day," Djokovic said. "It's no secret that I love to play at 7pm but it wasn't too bad at all today."

Next up for Djokovic is Taylor Fritz, an impressive four-set winner over last year's finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas over on the John Cain Arena.

The American 12th seed will represent another step up in quality, and should he replicate his performance from Sunday, has the ability to test the 24-time major winner. That said, Fritz has lost all eight matches against Djokovic, including the last five in straight sets, but did push him the distance at the Australian Open two years ago.

"Obviously it's going to be a tough one," Djokovic said of his quarter-final opponent. "There are no easy matches now so I'm going to have to be ready for a battle."

Lurking in the same side of the draw is Jannik Sinner, with the Italian shaping up to potentially be Djokovic's most dangerous opponent should both players advance to the semi-finals.

The fourth seed is yet to drop a set in Melbourne and was too strong for Russian 15th seed Karen Khachanov in a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Sabalenka sails through

Defending women's champion Aryna Sabalenka was in similarly unforgiving form on Margaret Court Arena, sweeping past unseeded Amanda Anisimova 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.

Fourth seed Coco Gauff has been almost as impressive. She swatted aside Poland's unseeded Magdalena Frech 6-1, 6-2 in just 63 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, with the 85-year-tennis legend watching from the stands.

"It was an honour to play in front of you, so thank you for coming to my match," said 19-year-old US Open champion Gauff, who had never progressed beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park in four previous attempts.

"First Aussie quarter-final. Super happy to be in this position and be here ... It's cool to get over that hump."

Gauff will next meet Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk, who beat Russian qualifier Maria Timofeeva 6-2, 6-1.

With seven of the women's top 10 seeds knocked out in the first week, including world No 1 Iga Swiatek, both Gauff and Sabalenka have a glorious chance to win their second major titles.

They are on the same side of the draw and will not meet in the final, with a potential last-four clash looming instead.

Sabalenka has dropped just 11 games in four matches and is favoured to win another title to go with her breakthrough Grand Slam crown last year. Should she go all the way, the 25-year-old Belarusian will be the first woman to retain the title since compatriot Victoria Azarenka in 2013.

"I'm getting stronger because I enjoy the atmosphere and I really want to stay here as long as I can till the very last day," said Sabalenka, who is yet to drop a set and takes on Barbora Krejcikova in the next round after the Czech ninth seed defeated teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva.

Updated: January 21, 2024, 9:15 AM