Novak Djokovic has sent an ominous warning to his Australian Open rivals, cranking into top gear despite revealing he's been hooked up to machines to treat his lingering hamstring injury for most of the past fortnight.
Djokovic upped the ante in his search for a 10th Open crown as he coolly dispatched fifth seed Andrey Rublev 6-1 6-2 6-4 on Wednesday to reach his 44th grand slam semi-final and 10th at Melbourne Park.
Two nights after Djokovic wiped the floor with Australian hope Alex de Minaur in the fourth round, the world No.5 left 25-year-old Rublev powerless in a one-sided contest at Rod Laver Arena.
Djokovic will head into his semi-final as heavy favourite in his first match against unseeded American Tommy Paul, who beat compatriot Ben Shelton 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 5-7 6-4.
"Last two matches, playing against two guys that are really good players, in-form players, to beat them dominantly in three sets is something that is definitely something that I want in this moment, something that sends a message to all my opponents remaining in the draw," he told reporters.
"With this kind of match, of course the confidence level rises, considering the circumstances.
"I feel good on the court, better and better as the tournament progresses. I've been in this situation in so many times in my life, in my career, never lost a semi-finals in Australian Open.
"Hopefully that will stay the same."
The hamstring injury suffered in Adelaide has impacted the Serb's return to Melbourne Park, after he missed the 2022 tournament following his deportation for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic has had his left thigh strapped throughout his campaign but his ominous form had prompted him to reject suggestions he had faked or played up the injury.
After making light work of Rublev, he touched on his injury management.
"To be honest, I've been connected to machines more than I have been connected to anybody else or my bed or anything else really in the days off," Djokovic said.
"I've tried about any bio-feedback machine there is in this planet in order to get my leg ready and it worked. I'm going to keep going.
"I miss tennis in the days off but at the same time I think it's important to be smart and wise with the body in these particular circumstances where it's more important to recover and get ready for the next challenge."
Only Roger Federer (46) has made more grand slam semi-final appearances than 35-year-old Djokovic, who is attempting to equal Rafael Nadal on 22 majors.
Djokovic is now on a 39-match winning streak in Australia stretching back to 2018.
In beating world No.6 Rublev, Djokovic has now won 22 of his past 23 matches against top-10 opponents at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic was only really bothered by windy conditions on court and a spectator's consistent heckling as he comfortably won the first set.
Rublev was reduced to frustrated screams on multiple occasions in the second set, but couldn't find a response as Djokovic kicked away to seal victory.
Rublev has now featured in seven grand slam quarter-finals without reaching the semi-finals.