Novak Djokovic was almost brought to tears discussing his family after demolition Alex de Minaur in their fourth round clash at the Australian Open on Monday night. The nine-time champion surged into a 13th Melbourne Park quarter-final after brushing aside his much publicised hamstring injury concerns in a 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win that described as his "best day so far" at the Australian Open.
The Serb destroyed Australia's last big hope in the men's singles with a clinical performance on Rod Laver Arena to move a step closer to a 10th Australian title and a 22nd major crown that would equal great rival Rafa Nadal's all-time record. With his left thigh again strapped, the 35-year-old was a man on a mission, expending as little energy as possible in a ruthless display lasting just over two hours.
'IT WAS ROUGH': Teen star in tears after question in Aus Open press conference
'SECRET NOTE': Novak Djokovic caught in bizarre Australian Open controversy
Djokovic aggravated his hamstring during his run to a 92nd title at the Adelaide International earlier in January and has been struggling with it since. But he moved freely against De Minaur to set up a clash with fifth seed Andrey Rublev for a semi-final berth after the Russian toppled Danish teen Holger Rune in a tense five-set epic on the same court.
Djokovic went about his business against de Minaur on Monday night with the sort of mechanical efficiency that has made him one of the finest players the sport has ever seen. However, the 35-year-old showed a vulnerability after the match that one does not often associate with the Serb, as he began to crack when speaking about his children, Stefan and Tara, who didn't make the trip with him to Australia.
“He’s playing, he’s enjoying himself,” Djokovic told Jim Courier about his son Stefan after the match. “The important thing is he is just loving what he is doing, whether it is tennis – whatever sport – of course as a father I want him to be active, be healthy.
“He loves tennis, he wants to watch every single match. Whenever I am at home there is no tennis break for me because I play with every day. It is the most beautiful thing that I could ever experience in my life, being a father of wonderful two little angles.
“Who knows maybe one day Stefan and I [can] come back here playing doubles with you guys. I still have plenty of time left ahead of me.”
However, it was when the Serb was asked about his daughter Tara that he really began to get emotional. “She is not into tennis at all. She is into ballet, gymnastics. She’s a really cute girl.
"Whenever she looks at me, I'm disarmed." 🥺 Novak's tribute to his children after tonight's win was just beautiful. ❤️
🖥️ #AusOpen LIVE | https://t.co/80XjQpwd6J#9WWOS #Tennis pic.twitter.com/p8tLkhkL3G
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 23, 2023
“She is keeping me grounded and humble as well. She spins me around every single day, whenever she looks at me I am disarmed. Her look is the most beautiful look I have ever experienced in my entire life.” The crowd inside Rod Laver roared in approval after the delightful moment, before Djokovic added, "I miss them very much".
Djokovic admitted that the hamstring injury that has dominated discussions around his matches, gave him no issues whatsoever in the mastecalhss against de Minaur. The Serb admitted that he had been pumping himself full of anti-inflammatory pills and credited his medical team for getting him ready for a tilt at a 10th Australian Open crown.
Novak Djokovic not bothered by hamstring
"I didn't feel anything today, so today was great," Djokovic, who will return to World No.1 for the first time since June if he wins the tournament, said of the hamstring. "I thank my medical team, physio, God - anybody that really helped me. I keep on going.
"Obviously I don't want to celebrate too early, I'm still in the tournament. I was feeling very good in the first match (in Melbourne), in the second match not so great, so I know things can change really quickly and I don't take things for granted.
"But I'm really pleased with the way I played today, the way I moved, the way I hit the ball. I played the best match of this year so far."
Victory put him into a 13th Melbourne quarter-final to move fourth on the all-time list behind Roger Federer, Nadal and John Newcombe.It is his 54th Grand Slam quarter-final in total - second only to the retired Federer's 58.
De Minaur, who recorded his first victory against a top-five player in November when he beat Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Masters, was always facing an uphill battle. Djokovic has not lost in Melbourne since 2018 - he did not play in 2022 - and has now won 25 consecutive matches at the Australian Open.
"I came up against a very good opponent with a very high level today," De Minaur said afterwards. "I think what I experienced today was probably Novak very close to his best, I would say. To me, if that's the level, I think he's definitely the guy that's going to take the title."
Djokovic always had the measure of the young Australian and broke to love in game six, consolidating without dropping a point for 5-2. With De Minaur struggling under the pressure, he sent a baseline forehand long to hand the Serb another break and the set in just 35 minutes.
Only 54 percent of De Minaur's first serves went in, compared with Djokovic's 76 percent, with the winners 9-1 in favour of the dominant Serb. De Minaur won the sixth game in the second set, ending a run of nine consecutive losses, but it was only a brief moment of respite.
Djokovic stretched his hamstring at the changeover and immediately applied pressure on De Minaur's first service game to break again in the third set, all but ending the match.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.