Melbourne: Novak Djokovic continued making his quest for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title look like a walk in the park by demolishing Andrey Rublev to reach the last four on Wednesday.
The Serb, still wearing a thigh strapping but looking supreme, raced to a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory with a performance that would have been uncomfortable viewing for American Tommy Paul.
Unseeded Paul won 7-6(6) 6-3 5-7 6-4 in an All-American quarter-final clash against 20-year-old Ben Shelton to advance to the semi-finals of a major for the first time. Djokovic is making a mockery of the theory that the second week of Grand Slam tournaments get tougher.
In the last 16 he dropped five games against home hope Alex de Minaur and he was just as ruthless against Rublev as he made it 25 successive wins in succession at the Australian Open.
Fifth seed Rublev has now lost all seven Grand Slam quarter-finals which he contested.
“I would rank this as very close to the performance of two nights ago,” Djokovic said on court. “I’m playing very solid from the back of the court and really love these conditions.
“The scoreline maybe in the first two sets tonight didn’t show the reality of the match. But all the important moments I found my best tennis.” Paul is only the third active American man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final, joining John Isner (2018 Wimbledon) and Frances Tiafoe (2022 U.S. Open) but will have to register a seismic shock if he is to go any further.
“I’m really excited, man. It’s really cool. I think it’s even cooler if I do play Novak,” the 25-year-old Florida-based Paul said after his victory.
“To play Novak here in Australia would be awesome. Obviously he’s pretty comfortable here in Australia. It’s going to be a challenging match. But I’m playing some of my best tennis.” Paul, the first American man to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne since Andy Roddick in 2009, withstood some ferocious serving from Shelton who banged down 24 aces.
“Ben’s tough to play against and he’s going to be in many matches like this,” Paul said.