Novak Djokovic continues to march towards a tenth Australian Open title after the Serb earned a straight sets win over Grigor Dimitrov. However once again Djokovic didn’t have it all his own way as a hamstring injury limited his movement which lead to the Serb being broken on two separate occasions. It’s looking increasingly likely that Djokovic’s biggest opponent in Melbourne will be himself as he looks for more history, the question is will this latest injury be a step too far?
A clearer answer may be produced at the start of the second week when he takes on the last Australian singles player left in Alex De Minaur. The world number 24 has had an impressive start to the season having only dropped one set at the Australian Open so far as well as gaining a win over Rafael Nadal before the first Grand Slam of the year as he looks to make a deep run at his home Grand Slam. The question is can De Minaur’s confidence take him to new heights and score a big upset at a Grand Slam?
This will be Djokovic’s toughest test yet in terms of mental fortitude when dealing with the crowd as well as his injury with De Minaur making the nine-time champion work for every point. The Australian will look to use his counter-attacking qualities to test Djokovic’s all-court movement as De Minaur will look to take advantage of a hampered nine-time champion. However in the end Djokovic’s returning quality and serving consistency should just about see him reach a 13th Australian Open quarter-final.
Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.
Aryna Sabalenka  v Belinda Bencic  H2H & Match Fundamentals
Aryna Sabalenka has often disappointed at Grand Slams as she has lacked the mental discipline to go all the way but there are signs that may change in Australia this year. Sabalenka’s big serving and big hitting approach has found some consistency at the start of the new season with the Belarusian producing some of the best serving stats of her career. That will be bad news for the rest of the tour as they often have relied on Sabalenka to go on self-destruct mode over the last year. Now the fifth seed looks to win her first Grand Slam title as she will feel this is her best chance yet.
The same could be said about Belinda Bencic who has also started the season in impressive form under new coach Dmitry Tursunov. The Swiss comfortably defeated Camila Giorgi and is yet to drop a set so far at this year’s Australian Open. Having claimed Olympic Gold in 2021, Bencic will feel that Grand Slam glory is only a matter of time and now Bencic will look to turn potential into actual results. The question is can Bencic be emotionally controlled enough to realise her Grand Slam dream?
This match will see fire meet fire as both players will be aggressive and will try to hit winners as early as possible in the rally. The serve is going to be a key component for both players if they want to win this match as well as the quality and consistency of their power from the baseline. This match could go either way but Bencic’s counter-attacking qualities and ability to produce more better angles on a slower court makes her slight favourite heading into this match.
Prediction: Bencic in three sets.
Andrey Rublev  v Holger Rune  H2H & Match Fundamentals
Andrey Rublev has often disappointed at Grand Slams but there are signs that this year’s Australian Open could be a bit different. The fifth seed produced one of his best performances over the last year as he defeated Dan Evans in straight sets and will now look to fulfil his potential as he searches for a second Australian Open quarter-final.
Standing in Rublev’s way is talented Dane Holger Rune who overcame big-serving Ugo Humbert in the last round. An impressive performance from Rune was overshadowed by the ninth seed suffering an ankle injury during the match that he will hope won’t be too serious heading into the latter stages of Melbourne. Rune’s big title win in Paris at the end of last year has given him the confidence that he can beat anyone on his day and put a run of form together to contend for Grand Slam titles. The question is will Rune have the emotional discipline and nerve to achieve his dream?
Rublev will look to dictate the play through his power and consistency from the baseline while Rune will look to counter-attack through his athleticism and impressive variety. Both players will play aggressive tennis and it could come down to who manages to be more consistent with their power. At the moment Rublev just edges it due to experience but don’t be surprised if the Russian lets his emotions get the better of him as he has done in the past.
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