Djokovic braces for home speed demon

Novak Djokovic plans to draw on the experience of taking on Lleyton Hewitt and the Melbourne Park crowd when he faces tennis speed demon Alex de Minaur for his customary spot in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Unbeaten in Australia for five years and 37 matches, Djokovic, even while seemingly hampered by a hamstring injury, is a warm favourite to progress to the Open's last eight for a 13th time on Monday.

But he certainly won't be the fans' favourite in the fourth-round blockbuster with de Minaur carrying the hopes of a nation as the last Australian standing in the 2023 AO singles draws.

De Minaur needs no added motivation as he chases a place in the quarter-finals of his home slam for the first time but knows having the support of the Rod Laver Arena crowd can be a big factor.

"It's no secret that I love playing here in my backyard. The Aussie crowd is amazing. They've had my back from day dot," he said.

"My opponents not only have to play against me but they've got to play against me and the whole crowd, right?"

Djokovic knows that full well.

"I'm sure that the atmosphere will be electric and he's going to have a lot of support, and he's going to be pumped to try to win the match," said the nine-times champion.

"But I've had experiences before. I played Lleyton Hewitt here. I played some big Aussie players, so I know how that feels. I know what to expect."

Of more concern to Djokovic is de Minaur's lightning speed around the court and his own movement issues as the former world No.1 continues to be hindered - and slowed - by his left leg issue.

"Obviously de Minaur is one of the quickest players on the tour - probably the quickest guy," Djokovic said.

"He has improved a lot and obviously he has Lleyton Hewitt in his corner, a multiple grand slam winner, (former) No.1 in the world. That's a great team.

"The fact that I never faced him is also challenging."

While de Minaur says he's not reading too much into Djokovic's physical condition, the Serbian superstar has required several medical timeouts to make it through the first three rounds.

"It kind of always starts well in last few matches and then some movement happens and then it gets worse," the fourth seed said.

"Yeah, pills kick in, some hot cream and stuff. That works for a little bit, then it doesn't, then works again. It's really a roller coaster, honestly.

"It requires a lot of energy that is being spent from my side mentally and physically, as well, to deal with the match with my opponent and also with not ideal physical state.

"But it is what it is. It's kind of a circumstances that you have to accept. I'm just very grateful that I'm actually able to play.

"The way it looked just before the tournament started, I thought that it wouldn't be possible.

"I'm still here and still holding on."

Djokovic or de Minaur will play either Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev or Danish world No.10 Hulger Rune on Wednesday for a place in the semi-finals.

4-NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SRB) v 22-ALEX DE MINAUR (AUS) - first meeting

Age: 35

Ranking: 5

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US164,786,653

Career titles: 92

Grand slam titles: 21 (Australian Open 2008, 2011-2013, 2015-16, 2019-21; French Open 2016, 2021; Wimbledon 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022; US Open 2011, 2015, 2018)

Australian Open win-loss record: 85-8

Best Australian Open results: champion 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021


Age: 23

Ranking: 24

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US7,944,797

Career titles: 6

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 11-5

Best Australian Open result: fourth round 2022, 2023