Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz to reach semi-finals
Novak Djokovic continued his bid for a record-extending 11th Australian Open title with a confident win over American 12th seed Taylor Fritz.
The Serb, seeking a 25th Grand Slam to move past Margaret Court’s record of 24, won 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 6-3 in hot conditions to reach the semi-finals.
He will play on Friday against Italian fourth seed Jannik Sinner, who defeated Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev.
“I suffered a lot in the first couple of sets,” top seed Djokovic, 36, said.
“I said [to my team] that this match was not an enjoyable match for me at all.
“It was really difficult to find the right timing. It was really hot while the sun was still out.
“We all know Taylor has got one of the best serves in the world. I knew the kind of threat he poses when he serves on such a high quality.”
Djokovic has won his past 33 singles matches at Melbourne Park and is a clear favourite to defend his title.
Sinner beat Rublev 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 in a match that finished at close to 01:30 local time on Wednesday morning after the start of the night session was pushed back to 21:00.
The singles matches on Rod Laver Arena did not start until 13:00. Coco Gauff’s win against Marta Kostyuk in the women’s quarter-finals took more than three hours before Djokovic needed almost four to beat Fritz, though Aryna Sabalenka made quick work of her 6-2 6-3 win over Barbora Krejcikova.
Djokovic keeps focus to come through
Djokovic calls the Australian Open his “second home”, such has been his dominance over the years, and this was another masterful display as he saw off the latest younger challenger.
His most recent defeat in Melbourne remains a fourth-round loss against South Korea’s Chung Hyeon in 2018.
With the match starting about 17:00 local time in temperatures of 31C, Djokovic coolly created eight break points in the opening set but became increasingly flustered as he was unable to take any of them.
Djokovic – looking overheated, regularly using ice towels and shouting towards his team – was almost punished when 26-year-old Fritz created two set points at 6-5 with a stunning forehand winner down the line.
However, Djokovic regained his composure to save them and lay the platform to pounce in the tie-break.
Helped by Fritz missing a simple volley for 1-0, Djokovic quickly asserted his authority and wrapped up the opening set after one hour 24 minutes.
Fritz, who had lost all eight of his previous meetings with Djokovic, responded valiantly.
A break of serve in the first game of the second set, before fighting off seven break points, enabled Fritz to level the match.
But he started to be hampered by a foot issue and Djokovic, looking strong as the conditions cooled, broke twice to win the third set.
Now completely in control, Djokovic was under little pressure on his serve and, when he broke for 4-2 in the fourth, the match looked to be heading towards a conclusion.
Fritz rallied once more by immediately breaking serve, but Djokovic broke again before serving out strongly.
‘I’m happy I can play the number one in the world’
Sinner lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon semi-finals in July and the Italian matched his best performance at a Grand Slam with victory over Rublev in the early hours of Wednesday.
Rublev failed to take two breakpoint chances in the fourth game of the first set, with Sinner then breaking his opponent’s serve minutes later for what proved to be the decisive moment in the opener.
The second set went to a tie-break and Rublev, who has now lost all 10 of his Grand Slam quarter-finals, held a 5-1 advantage before Sinner won six successive points to extend his lead.
Sinner then broke Rublev’s serve in the sixth game of the third set, with the Russian unable to claw the match back.
Image caption: The match between Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner finished at near 1:30am local time in Melbourne
Sinner had appeared to be struggling with a stomach injury in the second set and was delighted to see off the threat of Rublev.
“It is obviously very tough to play against Andrey Rublev,” he said. “We had some very tough matches already in the past. This was three sets but I could have lost both [first and second] sets.
“I want to thank everyone for staying so long. It’s always a huge pleasure to play here on this court. It doesn’t really matter about the time.
“I’m really excited when we always have these pressure points in. I’m just really trying to stay aggressive and it went my way.”
On Friday’s semi-final with Djokovic, Sinner said: “I’m really lucky to face him again and this is one of the biggest tournaments in the world. I’m happy I can play the number one in the world.
“He won here [many] times so it’s going to be tough. The only thing I can control is I’m going to fight for every ball and then we’ll see what happens.”
In Wednesday’s quarter-final ties, Polish ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz faces two-time finalist and third seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, before German sixth seed Alexander Zverev plays Spanish world number two Carlos Alcaraz.