Alex de Minaur was mauled by Novak Djokovic in a ruthless display

The next step in Djokovic’s bold but achievable ambition to go down in history as the greatest tennis player in history is to join Rafael Nadal in 22 Grand Slam championships, which he could do by Sunday night.

Djokovic was in commanding touch.

Djokovic was in commanding touch.Credit:Getty Images

The former world No. 1 has left the door open to speculation with his comments about the left Achilles tendon he tore in the Adelaide International semi-finals just under two weeks ago, but there have been no signs other than his strapping of an ongoing problem.

Maybe Djokovic duped everyone – or maybe he just has a pain threshold that mere mortals can’t understand, like two years ago when he won the No 9 title in Melbourne with a worsening abdominal tear.

But as de Minaur himself noted, Djokovic confirmed he “didn’t feel anything” and “moved as well as I did the whole tournament” against the Australian, explaining that the problem hampered him with “extreme” and “change of direction”. Movements in the first three rounds.

“It’s been really exhausting being involved with a lot of different treatments and machines and things that we do,” he said. “At the same time it was necessary. It’s necessary to get me in a playing condition so I’m really happy that my body has responded really well…it means we’re making progress.”

“Throughout my career, I’ve had a bit of experience with these special circumstances; I know my body responds pretty well to it. At the same time, there were situations where it responded great one day and then not so well the next day.

“We take it every day. I will do what I have been doing so far that has helped me get into this state. Hopefully it can get even better.”

For all the talk of de Minaur potentially being able to uncover Djokovic’s supposedly sub-optimal movement, it was the Sydneysider who did most of the running.

And he was run ragged, pushed back and overpowered. Over and over again.

De Minaur leaves the Open in the round of 16 for the second year in a row – and again without winning a set. It always seemed like a big challenge for him to become the first men’s quarterfinalist since Nick Kyrgios in 2015.

Novak Djokovic plays backhand at Alex de Minaur.

Novak Djokovic plays backhand at Alex de Minaur.Credit:AP

Bernard Tomic, Kyrgios (twice) and de Minaur all easily made it to the fourth round in subsequent years.

De Minaur made short work of his three far more humble opponents last week, but it was his losses to two of the sport’s biggest stars, Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, since November that boosted pre-match hopes against which he unleashed a titanic upset could Djokovic.

Despite all the 23-year-old’s lion-hearted ways, he was simply struggling to win cheap points – or lots of points at all – against the power of Djokovic, who won twice as many points whenever an extended rally ensued.


Even the mentally strong de Minaur will need some time to recover from this setback after he believed he had made up ground against the Tour pacesetters. That may still be true, but as this night proved beyond a doubt, Djokovic is on a planet of his own.

The writing was on the wall as de Minaur fought through his second game of service to tie the opening set at two. He did so by winning a series of grueling base changes as Djokovic made him work overtime for everything. That would always be difficult to repeat all night.

The number 22 won only three of the next 19 games, which amounted to a massacre.

There was no shortage of temptation – de Minaur audibly pushed and hopped up a ball optimistically after saving a break point in the second game of the second set, but it was brief respite. Two points later, Djokovic hammered a forehand into the corner that his young rival couldn’t keep on court.


Rublev, watch out.

“He’s been an established top 5 and top 10 player for a number of years now,” Djokovic said of the Russian.

“[He has] incredible firepower, especially from the serve and forehand corners – just a very explosive player, a bit like de Minaur so hopefully the result will be the same.”

The last Australian to face Djokovic at the Australian Open, Lleyton Hewitt, stood in de Minaur’s corner as usual and summed up the Serbian superstar’s opening sentence in one word: “Flawless”.

Hewitt could have said the same thing at the end of the game and in that form it’s inevitable how this Grand Slam will end.

Watch the Australian Open live on Channel Nine, 9Gem and 9Now.

For daily updates on all tennis action throughout the Australian Open, Sign up for our sports newsletter here. Alex de Minaur was mauled by Novak Djokovic in a ruthless display

Ryan Sederquist

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