Melbourne Australia — Novak Djokovic He paused his service routine and began to vigorously extend his left leg. He has just seven points left to wrap up his third round match at the Australian Open Grigor DimitrovBut he was clearly in pain.
Djokovic’s left hamstring has caused him grief during his first week here in Melbourne. His mobility and mobility were hampered, yet he gave up just one set en route to the last 16 while chasing a record-equalling 22nd major title.
His run proved eerily similar to what happened in 2021, when he nursed a slash tear to his ninth Australian Open crown.
On Monday night, Djokovic will face Australian hopeful and 22nd seed Alex de Minor —who equaled his best home slam result with a third-round victory over the Frenchman Benjamin Ponzi – for a place in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic and De Minaur have never met in professional competition. The first encounter, scheduled to take place in prime time at Rod Laver Arena, is set to be a stellar showdown.
“Playing in front of you guys, I don’t know how many of you will be on my side,” Djokovic joked to the crowd after his victory over Dimitrov. “It’s going to be great, I’m sure, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Why would Novak Djokovic win?
Djokovic does not lose at Rod Laver Arena. Scratch that, he’s not losing in Australia. The 35-year-old superstar has won 37 consecutive singles matches on Australian soil, including three consecutive Australian Open titles between 2019 and 2021.
He thrives in conditions and handles pressure better than anyone else, giving him a huge edge over de Minaur, who played just five home-court games in the slam dunk to a 3-2 record.
Despite a hamstring concern and playing well below his devastating best, Djokovic has managed to raise his bar in key moments at this tournament – a hallmark of his career. after France Enzo Quacode Tied at one set in the second round, Djokovic staggered 12 of his next 14 matches to run away with the match.
The last time out against Dimitrov, Djokovic played his best tennis in the first set tie-break, before taking several break opportunities later in the match.
Djokovic could also benefit from De Minaur’s serve, which has let him down so far in this tournament. De Minaur won some cheap points with him, scoring just 21 aces over his first three matches, and managing to serve his first serve only 58% of the time. Injured or not, Djokovic will punish him if he doesn’t improve on the field.
And don’t underestimate the mental side of this game. It must be frustrating for any player, let alone those in the top 30 – like Dimitrov – to throw everything at an injured Djokovic and still fail to win a set.
Why Alex de Minor would win
If Djokovic can draft a fourth-round opponent, De Minaur will likely be at the bottom of his list.
It’s no secret that Djokovic doesn’t move as freely as he’d like or as we’d expect, so facing an opponent who thinks he’s “the fastest player on tour” will be a significant test of his body.
De Minaur’s game is not entirely different from Djokovic’s, built on defense and the ability to force his opponent to play the shot and find a way past. He is a very disciplined player and will not make many mistakes. Through his three matches, de Minaur’s opponents have committed 49 more unforced errors than he has.
Djokovic hasn’t consistently hit the ball as fast this couple of weeks, meaning finding winners against De Minaur will likely be a challenge. If he starts to struggle with his hamstring and looks to force the issue, that could play into the hands of the Aussie.
“I’m just going to have to take it to him and I’m not going to shy away from the occasion,” De Minaur said before the encounter. “I’m going to make sure I make it as hard as I can. I’m not going to read much about that injury.”
While Djokovic has eluded Dimitrov, De Minaur will put the crowd firmly in his corner. The 23-year-old is the last remaining individual hope for the Australian team at this year’s tournament.
What will happen?
Taking on Djokovic in Melbourne, no matter how injured he may be, is a fool’s errand. His career record at the Australian Open is 85-8, which highlights just how difficult it is to beat him on the blue Plexiglas cushion. However, De Minaur will not be easy, and he is good enough to make his own. Djokovic to win by four goals.