Novak Djokovic couldn't have been more impressive at the Australian Open on Sunday, registering a stunning 6-0 6-0 6-3 victory in just one hour and 44 minutes in a rare day appearance on Rod Laver Arena. His afternoon time slot was due to Australian Open officials making the staggering call on Saturday to bump him out of his preferred night spot in favour of Aussie Alex de Minaur.
The decision to put Djokovic in the afternoon ended a run of 15 consecutive night matches for the 10-time Australian Open winner. The last time he played in the day was in the second round in 2021 when he overcame Frances Tiafoe in four sets in sweltering heat.
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On Sunday, the World No.1 was heavily favoured to beat No.20 seed Adrian Mannarino and he did so with ease, putting on a clinic in his fourth-round clash as he moved through to the quarter-finals. The day slot felt much like his usual night game after scattered showers led to the roof being closed on Rod Laver Arena before the match.
“It’s no secret I love to play at 7pm,” he said on court after the win. “But it wasn’t bad at all today. The way I played today, I don’t mind playing in the day.”
The World No.1 was ultra-impressive throughout as he moved the French veteran around the court at will. "It’s like PlayStation tennis and Novak Djokovic is in charge of the joystick," Robbie Koenig said on Stan.
However, despite the scoreline being emphatic, Jim Courier said the Serb is still clearly not over a sickness that has bothered him since the start of the Australian Open. "Here is the thing that everyone at home should be listening for and paying attention to 53 minutes into this match, Djokovic is one of the most silent assassins we have seen in tennis," Courier said.
"He doesn’t grunt until late in the match or if the point gets really long. He is grunting on every point. He is without question physically wounded at the moment. He is sick. He told us he was sick five days before the tournament. Would have thought by now he would have healed up. Something is still not right inside his body because his energy levels are not what we are used to seeing."
Alex de Minaur falls short against Andrey Rublev
De Minaur took to centre court in the night session against World No.5 Andrey Rublev, looking to make the quarter-finals of his home slam for the first time in his career. However he suffered a heartbreaking five-set loss as Rublev prevailed 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-0.
De Minaur had previously said that he prefers Rod Laver to John Cain Arena - where he played his third-round match. "I would love to play on RLA," the 24-year-old said before Sunday's schedule was confirmed. "That prime-time slot is pretty special, and you've got to earn it. But ultimately it doesn't really matter when I play, whether I play first match, whether I play last. Whether I play on RLA or court 27, I'm still going to be the same."
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