Novak Djokovic caught a fair wind

Nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic has taken another step towards his next triumph in Melbourne. Leaving no chance in the quarterfinals to the Russian Andrey Rublev, who has never been able to take someone else's serve, the famous Serb will compete for reaching the final with the 35th racket of the world, the American Tommy Paul, who has gone so far through the Grand Slam tournament grid for the first time.

The longer this Australian Open goes on, the more talk that Novak Djokovic casts a shadow over the fence. That the injury to the left thigh, which the Serbian complained about throughout the first week of the tournament, is actually not so serious and that Djokovic uses it as an element of psychological struggle with opponents. About the possible pretense of the famous champion is not only written in the newspapers. On Monday, the Australian Alex De Minor spoke with transparent hints on this topic, but Djokovic himself perceives such discussions without complexes. “Whoever wants, let him doubt. Now I have no interest in it. It's funny to see how they talk about me differently than about other players who find themselves in similar situations. But I'm used to it, and it gives me extra strength," he said on Monday, after giving De Minor just five games.

Now Andrei Rublev fell victim to Djokovic in about two hours, although there was hardly a psychological factor here.

The Russian was well aware that it would be naive to wait for gifts from a Serbian tennis player due to illness in any case, but awareness of this harsh reality did not help Rublev at least start an equal fight. The fact is that he himself demonstrated individual classy strokes, and his opponent - holistic, tactically impeccable tennis, and without making any extra effort. Some games were longer, others a little shorter, but exactly an hour after the start of the game, Djokovic already had an impeccably won first set and a break in the second game.

That is, the fate of Rublev, who immediately lost his pitch in the third set, after which he was able to take four games, was a foregone conclusion. The gusty wind that accompanied the match blew against his opponent's sails that evening.

Seven consecutive quarter-finals lost to Rublev at Grand Slam tournaments is not a record. The same number of times the famous Spaniard Tommy Robredo stopped at this turn in his time, who, by the way, never made it further. True, Robredo belonged to the world elite for a relatively short time. He was in the top ten for only a year and a half, while Rublev, at the age of 25, has already taken part in the final ATP tournaments three times. Probably, once the quarter-final barrier will be passed by him, although that should be accompanied by a certain amount of luck. Because it is extremely difficult to successfully compete with self-confident Djokovic two days after the wonderful, but requiring incredible moral effort, the pursuit of Holger Rune. For this, the Russian lacked not only the sophistication of tactics and the power of the second serve, but also an elementary supply of adrenaline.

And all the same, Andrei Rublev can record the second half of January as an asset. After two defeats at the start of the season in Adelaide, he had a very successful tournament for himself, beating another very unpleasant opponent for himself before Rune - Briton Daniel Evans. Finally, the quarter-final is the very result that corresponds to the current rating of Rublev, who, by the way, returned to the top five. It is unlikely that the best Russian tennis player at the moment will be able to rise higher in the coming weeks. In February and early March, he will have to defend almost a thousand points earned for victories in Dubai and Marseille, as well as for the semi-finals in Rotterdam.

But even in the event of the most unfortunate development of events for itself, at least until mid-March, Rublev will not fall out of the top ten. That is, in theory, he can safely prepare for the next tournaments, strengthening his game.

Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, has reached the tournament stage that invariably led him to triumph at the Australian Open. During his career in Melbourne, he failed three times in the quarterfinals, twice in the first and fourth rounds, once in the second, but, starting from the semifinals, he has not lost a single match out of 18. On Friday, he will meet with the 35th world racket American Tommy Paul, and it is clear that Djokovic can only be out of the final if his injury is not misinformation. And in the title match against Stefanos Tsitsipas or Karen Khachanov, the Serb is simply doomed to be a clear favorite.

Evgeny Fedyakov

1/4 finals Australian Open

Men. Tommy Paul (USA) - Ben Shelton (USA) 7:6 (8:6), 6:3, 5:7, 6:4. Novak Djokovic (Serbia, 4)—Andrey Rublev (Russia, 5) 6:1, 6:2, 6:4.

On Friday in the 1/2 finals meet: Karen Khachanov (Russia, 18) - Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece, 3), Djokovic - Paul.

Women. Magda Linett (Poland) - Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic, 30) 6:3, 7:5. Arina Sobolenko (Belarus, 5) - Donna Vekic (Croatia) 6:3, 6:2.

On Thursday in the 1/2 finals meet: Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan, 22) - Victoria Azarenka (Belarus, 24), Lynette - Sobolenko.

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