Novak Djokovic has turned in the best performance of his 2023 Australian Open campaign after obliterating Aussie hope Alex de Minaur 6-2 6-1 6-2. The Aussie met the 21-time grand slam champion on Rod Laver Arena, hoping to end the injury-hampered Serb's quest for a record-extending 10th singles crown at Melbourne Park.
But after the two were level at 2-2 in the first, Djokovic stepped it up and won 10 games - to de Minaur's one - to take the first two sets 6-2, 6-1. Djokovic then raced to a 4-0 lead in the third set to leave the Australian fans absolutely flat in Rod Laver Arena.
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Djokovic has carried a hamstring injury into the year's first grand slam and has required medical attention after admitting to having concerns around the problem. But there was no sign that Djokovic was struggling to run or hit the ball as his weight of shot just pushed the Aussie further back.
The Serbian was very subdued during the match, which signalled his intent to win, but also potentially not to fire up the Australian crowd. Unbeaten in Australia for five years and 37 matches the Serb continues to be a warm favourite to progress and lift his 10th Australian Open title.
"I cannot say I'm sorry that you haven't watched a longer match, to be honest. I really wanted to win in straight sets," Djokovic said afterwards.
"You never know what is going to happen on the court. Once you're on the court, you've got to deal with a lot of things that are on and off the court.
"First four or five games were quite close. One break of serve in the first set, I started feeling, I guess, more loose, more free to kind of go through the ball and be more aggressive.
"I felt maybe he was a bit more nervous towards the end of the first and beginning of the second. I felt like it's my opportunity to try to capitalise on those chances."
Despite de Minaur's valiant effort, Djokovic left the tennis world stunned at his insane level of play. Nick Kyrgios, recovering from knee surgery, couldn't believe Djokovic's level of play.
Novak Djokovic's hamstring holds up
Djokovic's hamstring was a huge talking point in the lead up to the match. However, he appeared to glide through the match without too much trouble.
Earlier, Aussie great Todd Woodbridge questioned the severity of the hamstring complaint for Djokovic, after accusing the Serb of "playing up" his injuries in the past. Woodbridge claimed the theatrics were all part of a mental game from Djokovic that the 35-year-old has perfected over the years.
"It looks a bit dodgy between points but once he starts running there is absolutely no problem with how he is moving," Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports. "I'm not saying it's gamesmanship, it's pretty obvious he has a bit of a niggle, but at times it looks like it's about to snap off, so he's playing it up nicely here and there, but you know, that's Novak.
"Novak uses that type of energy to focus, to fire up and we've seen him use the crowd in the same way sometimes. And that's just the way he does it and we've been watching it for a long time now."
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