Alex de Minaur has stormed into the fourth round of the Australian Open, surging past Benjamin Bonzi in straight sets. The World No.23 proved a class above the Frenchman, particularly after winning the first set tiebreak to love.
Things didn't look like they were going to be simple in the first set, after the 23-year-old squandered multiple breaks and ended up having to serve to stay in the set. But after de Minaur rolled through the tiebreak with little resistance, he looked unstoppable as he moved on in the Australian Open.
De Minaur held an almost comical advantage in break points in the 7-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory, earning 22 to his opponent's six. By the third set he was taking full advantage, leading 5-0 at one point.
Bonzi was broken to start each of the three sets, with de Minaur seemingly having an answer for his serve at every turn. Lapping up the home crowd atmosphere, the 23-year-old was through to the round of 16 in just over two hours.
The top ranked Australian men's player to compete after the late withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios, De Minaur has been putting together an impressive run, alongside fellow Aussie Alexei Popyrin. The victory at least equals De Minaur's best performance at Melbourne Park, making the fourth round for the second year in a row.
He'll face the winner between Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov, to be played on Saturday night. Speaking after the match, he said it was special to see Australian fans getting behind himself and Popyrin.
"I'm very happy, I can't lie," he said. "As a kid this is what you train for, playing on this court, in front of (the crowd), the biggest stage in the world. Every time I come out here I pinch myself. You're making it so special."
On social media, de Minaur's clinical performance left fans contemplating just how far he could go in the tournament.
Alex de Minaur to face winner of Djokovic, Dimitrov
Meanwhile, concerns over a hamstring injury won't hold back Djokovic when he confronts his "Balkan brother" Dimitrov in the headline act of third-round action on day six of the Australian Open. Djokovic's stocks have risen at Melbourne Park as he ramps up his pursuit of a 10th Open crown, following the shock exits of top two seeds Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud.
But the Serbian superstar was troubled by his sore left hamstring during a second-round win over Enzo Couacaud and has been limited in his preparation. He has spent most of his time between matches focusing on rehabilitation, rather than practice, working with medical staff around the clock.
Next up is a clash with familiar Bulgarian Dimitrov, who Djokovic has beaten in nine of 10 previous encounters. The pair last met in Paris in 2019 and have never done battle in Melbourne, with Dimitrov's only triumph over Djokovic coming on Madrid clay almost a decade ago.
"Hopefully it's going to be an entertaining match," Djokovic said after dispatching French qualifier Couacaud. "He's been playing some great tennis, I know him really well.
"We're good friends off the court, Balkan brothers, so let the better player win."
Djokovic was one of a host of players affected when extreme heat and rain wreaked havoc on the schedule early this week. It created a backlog of matches that had to be crammed into the schedule, many late at night. Djokovic's third-round commitments didn't finish until well after midnight on Friday morning.
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