Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne
Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne | (Photo by Will Murray/Getty Images)

Tennis | Australian Open 2023 | Novak Djokovic searches for tenth Australian Open semi-final against Andrey Rublev

By Tony Fairbairn

  • Novak Djokovic [4] v Andrey Rublev [5]
  • Aryna Sabalenka [5] v Donna Vekic
  • Tommy Paul v Ben Shelton
  • Karolina Pliskova [30] v Magda Linette
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Novak Djokovic is looking to reach a tenth Australian Open semi-final when he faces fifth seed Andrey Rublev on day ten of the first Grand Slam of the season.

 

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Novak Djokovic [4] v Andrey Rublev [5]  H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Novak Djokovic [4] v Andrey Rublev [5] H2H: Djokovic leads 2-1
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Novak Djokovic played his most impressive match of the tournament as he breezed past Alex De Minaur with the loss of five games. Despite the Australian doing absolutely nothing to put Djokovic off his game, the nine-time champion showed no signs of a hamstring injury as he continued his surge for a 22nd Grand Slam title. If Djokovic continues to play like he did against De Minaur then nobody will be able to stop him but statistics show that he’s most vulnerable at the quarter-finals stage having lost on three previous occasions at this stage of the tournament. So Djokovic will know that he can’t underestimate any opponent as he looks for more history in Melbourne.

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Standing in Djokovic’s way of a tenth Australian Open semi-final is fifth seed Andrey Rublev who just about edged past Holger Rune in a fifth set tiebreak. Rublev produced a big comeback in the tiebreak as he used his experience to reach a second Australian Open quarter-final. After many disappointing results at Grand Slams in the past, Rublev is hoping Melbourne is his year to make a big breakthrough and send a message to the rest of the tour that he is the discipline and mentality to win a Grand Slam title.

Rublev will need to play much better than he did against Rune and will need to serve well from the start if he’s to have any chance of winning. Djokovic will look to make this a war of attrition and defend the baseline with his life as he waits for the Russian to commit the errors and be the master of his own downfall. Night time conditions favour Djokovic more so expect him to make a slow start before roaring back to take this in a tight four set contest that should further prove that he is the favourite to win the title.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.

 

Aryna Sabalenka [5] v Donna Vekic  H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Aryna Sabalenka [5] v Donna Vekic H2H: Vekic leads 5-1
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Aryna Sabalenka continued her dominant start to the season and sent a real message to the rest of the locker room with a convincing win over Belinda Bencic. The Belarusian has fixed her serve and her mentality with the fifth seed looking like a real contender for the Australian Open title as she is yet to lose a set this season. Now Sabalenka will look to continue her dominance when it matters most and finally fulfil her potential to become a Grand Slam champion.

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However the ultimate psychological test comes for Sabalenka next as her banana skin opponent Donna Vekic awaits in the last eight. The Croatian is into her second Grand Slam quarter-final having beaten Liudmila Samsonova and more recently 17 year-old sensation Linda Fruhvirtova. After reaching the final as a qualifier in San Diego last year, Vekic has gained new belief that she can go all the way and contend for a Grand Slam title. Now with 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion Pam Shriver, Vekic will fancy her chances at causing more upsets and becoming the dark horse to win the title.

Sabalenka will look to be the aggressor during this match as she will use her serve as the base to dominating play and coming into the net when necessary. Meanwhile Vekic will look to use her movement and power when on the move to counter-attack Sabalenka’s power and transition into attacking play herself. This is a big mental test for the Belarusian to come up against someone who has dominated their head-to-head but Sabalenka’s confidence means she should edge this match even if she loses her first set of the season.

Prediction: Sabalenka in three sets.

 

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Tommy Paul v Ben Shelton  H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Tommy Paul v Ben Shelton H2H: First Meeting
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After a run of consistent results on the main tour, Tommy Paul is finally starting to translate his consistent and aggressive tennis at Grand Slam level. The American’s four set win over Roberto Bautista Agut was another sign of Paul’s progress and how his potential is now starting to translate into results. Now the American will head into a Grand Slam quarter-final as the more experienced player and will fancy his chances of reaching a first Grand Slam semi-final.

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Paul will face will face 20 year-old sensation Ben Shelton in an all-American quarter-final. Shelton first broke through in Cincinnati last year when he defeated Casper Ruud in the second round. Since then the American has impressed on the challenger tour, winning three titles in American and has continued the momentum into Melbourne where he is into his first Grand Slam quarter-final. Shelton has a big game, similar to Jack Draper’s and will look to power his way to history in Melbourne on his first tournament outside of America.

This will be a stern test for Paul’s defensive skills against an aggressive player like Shelton who will look to shorten the points and use the angles to force errors from Paul. Paul will look to use his experience to neutralise Shelton’s big-hitting with depth and variety with both players being nervous with so much on the line. Paul should come through this match but another five setter could await Shelton, having already played two in Melbourne already.

Prediction: Paul in five sets.

 

Karolina Pliskova [30] v Magda Linette H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Karolina Pliskova [30] v Magda Linette H2H: Pliskova leads 7-2
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It turns out that going under the radar was the best thing that could have happened to Karolina Pliskova as she has cruised into the quarter-finals. Yet nobody is talking about Pliskova like she is a contender for the title despite being a two-time Grand Slam finalist. Now Pliskova looks to overcome the doubters and power her way into contention as she looks to seize her opportunity as she may never have a better opportunity to win a Grand Slam title.

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Standing in her way is Magda Linette who at 30 years of age is into her first Grand Slam quarter-final. The Pole was impressive in her straight sets win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia as her positive mindset and attitude has earned its rewards with a place in the last eight in Melbourne. Now with nothing to lose and everything to gain Linette will look to become an unlikely contender to go all the way.

This will be a match of baseline control as Pliskova will use her power and quality of angles to make Linette move around the court. While the Pole will look to serve well and take the match to Pliskova, testing the 30th seed’s defensive skills. The head-to-head says that Pliskova should easy into the semis but with Pliskova not always performing under pressure and Linette having nothing to lose this may be more complicated then expected.

Prediction: Pliskova in three sets.

 

 

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