Novak Djokovic needs no extra motivation as he aims to win the Australian Open for a 10th time, as his confidence levels continue to rise.

Djokovic stormed into the semi-finals with a 6-1 6-2 6-4 thrashing of Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.

The Serbian has never lost a semi-final in Melbourne, while he has matched Andre Agassi for the longest Australian Open win streak in the Open Era (26).

Asked if this is as confident he has ever felt at the season's opening major, the 21-time grand slam champion told reporters: "I can't really say that this is as confident that I ever felt because I've had some incredible seasons, years here in Australian Open, some matches that are really unforgettable for me.

"I've been fortunate to really live through a lot of success in Australian Open. But [in the] 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 sends a message to all my opponents remaining in the draw.

"With this kind of game, of course the confidence level rises. I feel good on the court, better and better as the tournament progresses.

"I've been in this situation so many times in my life, in my career, never lost a semi-final at the Australian Open. Hopefully, that will stay the same."

When it was put to Djokovic that he is even more motivated at the age of 35, Djokovic said: "I don't think that I lack determination.

"I always try to give my best, particularly in grand slams, because at this stage of my career those are the tournaments that count the most, of course.

"You could say that there is something extra this year. You could say because [of] the injury, [and] what happened last year. I just wanted to really do well.

"I have a perfect score in Australian hard courts, in Adelaide and here. I've been playing better and better. I couldn't ask for a better situation to be in at the moment."

Djokovic will face Tommy Paul in the last four, after the American defeated compatriot Ben Shelton. 

Paul has never faced Djokovic, who nevertheless knows what to expect.

"I know how he plays. I never faced him on the court, but he's been around for a few years," said Djokovic.

"I watched him play quite a bit, especially during this tournament. He's been playing probably tennis of his life. Very explosive, very dynamic player. 

"I think he can hit all the spots with the serve. A very complete player. First semi-final for him, so of course he doesn't have much to lose."

Three American men progressed to the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the first time since 2000, and the first time in any grand slam since 2005, and Djokovic believes a strong United States contingent is crucial.

"America for our sport is an extremely important country," Djokovic said. "We have some of the biggest tournaments in the world played there.

"I think it is important that we see successful American men and women. Now you have a list of maybe four or five young players that are knocking on the door of the top level. I think that's great for our sport."

Novak Djokovic felt he played his best tennis in Wednesday's straight-sets win over Andrey Rublev which resulted in his 10th semi-final appearance at the Australian Open.

Djokovic produced a dominant performance as he ran out a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victor against Rublev, who has now lost each of his seven career grand slam quarter-finals.

Having missed last year's tournament, nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic has now won 26 consecutive matches at the event, matching Andre Agassi's record streak in the men's singles draw, set between 2000 and 2004.

Speaking courtside after securing another routine win, Djokovic insisted his opponent deserved more but said he had hit top form at Rod Laver Arena.

"Overall, I think the scoreline of the first two sets does not speak to the reality of the match, there were some really close games," Djokovic said.

"Andrey's a great opponent, a great player. I have tonnes of respect for him. He has one of the biggest forehands and is one of the quickest players on the Tour.

"I knew what the game plan was, but it's one thing to imagine how you want to play and another to execute it on the court. 

"If I had to sum it up, in all the important moments and important shots, I found my best tennis. That's what makes me most pleased tonight."

Djokovic described his 6-2 6-1 6-2 demolition of Alex de Minaur in the last 16 as his best performance of the year on Monday, and the Serbian ranked his display against Rublev as a close second.

"I would rank it as number two, but very close to the performance of two nights ago!" Djokovic said.

"I could not be happier with my tennis, honestly. I've been playing very solid from the back of the court and I really love playing under these conditions and on this court.

"I've said it many times, but I love playing here. It's definitely the most special court for me."

Djokovic's pursuit of a record-extending 10th title at Melbourne Park looked to be in doubt as he struggled with a hamstring injury in the early rounds, but after moving freely on Wednesday, the 35-year-old credited his medical team's efforts.

"On the days off it's important to be smart and wise with the body in these particular circumstances. It's important to recover and get ready for the next challenge," he said. 

"I just want to give huge credit to my physiotherapist Miljan [Amanovic], he has been through hell with me over the last 10 days with all the treatments. He deserves huge credit and I'm so grateful to him."

Novak Djokovic claimed a share of another piece of history on Wednesday as he won his 26th consecutive match at the Australian Open.

Djokovic took the title in Melbourne in 2019, 2020 and 2021 before he was denied entry last year and subsequently deported due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

The 21-time grand slam champion is back this year and has continued his winning run, defeating Roberto Carballes Baena, Enzo Couacaud, Grigor Dimitrov, Alex de Minaur and, on Wednesday, Andrey Rublev.

That quarter-final success saw Djokovic match Andre Agassi for the longest Australian Open win streak in the Open Era.

Agassi won 26 in a row between 2000 and 2004, likewise winning three titles, missing one tournament and then reaching a semi-final before finally being beaten.

Djokovic will hope to avoid the same fate as he bids for the outright record against Tommy Paul in the semis, although he has never been beaten in a last-four match in Melbourne, winning the title on the previous nine occasions he reached this stage.

Those nine titles are a record for any man at the Australian Open and for Djokovic at any one major.

This is also now Djokovic's favourite grand slam in terms of match wins, with the 6-1 6-2 6-4 dismantling of Rublev his 87th victory in Melbourne. It passed his 86 wins at Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic cruised into the Australian Open semi-finals with a crushing 6-1 6-2 6-4 win against Andrey Rublev, producing a near-faultless display at Rod Laver Arena.

The 21-time grand slam winner needed just over two hours to reach his 10th semi-final at the event – making him just the second player to hit double figures in the Open Era after Roger Federer (15).

Djokovic dominated from the off, breaking Rublev at just the second attempt and repeating the trick in the sixth game after angrily calling out a heckler between points.

Rublev faced seven break points in a one-sided opener as Djokovic pushed him back with a series of powerful groundstrokes, and there was to be little respite for the Russian in the second set.

Rublev gave up two breaks either side of a back-and-forth game in which Djokovic overcame intense pressure to hold, with the world number six ranting at the umpire over the time Djokovic took to serve. 

Djokovic then held serve in another lengthy game to see out the second set, before securing another swift break at the outset of the third as a frustrated Rublev hurled his racquet to the ground.

While Rublev improved in a low-key third set, Djokovic's excellent service game ensured the Russian became just the second male player in the Open Era to lose each of his first seven major quarter-finals, after Tommy Robredo.

Djokovic, meanwhile, is in ominous form in his pursuit of a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, moving freely after being troubled by a hamstring injury in the earlier rounds, as he teed up a meeting with American Tommy Paul.

Data slam: Djokovic as good as ever in resounding win

Having missed out on the Australian Open last year following his deportation from the country, Djokovic has resembled a man on a mission this time around as he looks to get his hands on the trophy for a fourth time in five years.

Djokovic is just the seventh male player to reach the Australian Open's last four after turning 35 in the Open Era, after Ken Rosewall, Roger Federer, Mal Anderson, Rafael Nadal, Arthur Ashe and Colin Dibley.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 14/5
Rublev – 6/3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 32/21
Rublev – 26/29

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 5/14
Rublev – 0/5 

Andrey Rublev suggested he had given up hope at 5-0 down in the deciding tie-break against Holger Rune.

Rublev prevailed 6-3 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6 (11-9) in a three-and-a-half-hour thriller against the Dane on Monday to progress to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

The Russian salvaged two match points to force a tie-break at the end of the fifth set, but found himself staring down the barrel of an exit from the season's first major as Rune cruised into a commanding lead.

Yet Rublev won nine of the next 11 points and, at the third attempt, sealed a remarkable victory when a shot that hit the net cord trickled just over.

"Yes, I was lucky," Rublev said in his post-match press conference.

"I started to think it's over, for sure. Somehow... I was able to start to play with much more focus."

Asked how he maintained his self-belief, Rublev quipped: "I was not believing."

"Beginning of the fifth set, I was completely frozen. Inside I was thinking that I cannot [win]. I cannot move. I cannot hit.

"I was thinking it's over. He's playing much better than me. He deserves to win. He's going for the shots. He's doing something that normally I am supposed to do if I want to win the match.

"I let it go. Somehow the stress that I had, I was able to relieve it. At the end of the match I played much better than during the rest of the match."

During his on-court interview, Rublev said: "I was never able to win matches like this, this is the first time I've won something like this.

"At a very special tournament, to be in a quarter-final, it's something I'll remember all my life. I'm shaking!"

Rublev has qualified for his second Australian Open quarter-final, and his seventh at a grand slam. However, he has lost all of those matches.

The world number six, seeded fifth in Melbourne, has won three successive matches that have gone the distance, a career-first. Now, he will meet nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, who defeated Alex de Minaur in straight sets.

"I don't know," Rublev replied when asked if Djokovic was unbeatable. 

"Novak is very tough player to beat, especially in the slams.

"He has the best experience to win these matches. He's one of the best in history. The only chance I have is if I play my best tennis, just fight for every ball, and that's it. That's the only chance."

Andrey Rublev avenged a recent straight sets loss to Dan Evans in convincing fashion on Friday, advancing through to the fourth round with a 6-4 6-2 6-3 victory.

Rublev's serve was the dominant force in the match, not conceding a single break as he saved all four of Evans' break point opportunities.

He finished with 10 aces to Evans' three, and created 15 break point opportunities of his own, securing four.

When speaking to the media after his win, Rublev said his recent defeat against Evans in July's Montreal Open was still fresh in his mind and he was thrilled to turn the tables this time.

"I'm happy with my game today, especially because last time I lost to him in straight sets," he said. "So I took the revenge.

"I'm really happy – I mean, the first set wasn't amazing, but was not that bad. I was just serving well, I was not doing something special.

"As soon as I was able to win the first set, I started to feel a relief, I started to feel more confident, I started to feel I can go for extra speed to raise a level.

"As soon as I did it, I started to feel even more confident, because I started to feel that this game, he cannot control. He was not able to do something – he started to stress more, and I started to feel it."

Rublev has never been past the quarter-finals of a grand slam, and when asked what has been holding him back, he said it was obvious.

"It's easy, and I think it's obvious – it's the mental part," he said. "That's it. Because game-wise, I think I have a good game to fight against top players, to play and compete."

The world number six will play world number 10 Holger Rune in the fourth round, with a place in the last eight on the line.

Rublev feels he is just as dangerous as his 19-year-old opponent because they both have "nothing to lose".

"He's a young guy, super talented," Rublev said. "He has nothing to lose for the moment, because he was going from underdog position all the time.

"But this year, we'll see. It's going to be challenging for him, and I have nothing to lose against him next time, because he was the one who won our first match, so he will feel a bit of pressure."

For the first time in 20 years, four or fewer of the top eight seeds in the men's singles will progress to the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Daniil Medvedev's defeat to Sebastian Korda on Friday meant he joined Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz and defending champion Rafael Nadal in heading home early from the season's first grand slam.

According to Opta, it is the first time since 2003 that the round of 16 in Melbourne will include four or fewer of the top eight players in the competition.  

Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, is struggling with injury ahead of his third-round tie with Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday, while world number six and fifth seed Andrey Rublev faces a tough test against Dan Evans.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is sure of his place in round four after the Greek third seed beat Tallon Griekspoor in straight sets. Felix Auger-Aliassime will go up against Jiri Lehecka for a place in the last eight.

 

Casper Ruud was given a wake-up call ahead of the Australian Open as he was beaten by Laslo Djere in Auckland.

Ruud, who was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in the US Open final last year, was the top seed in New Zealand but came unstuck in the round of 16 on Wednesday.

Djere came from behind to defeat the Norwegian world number three 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) and seal his place in the quarter-finals, where he will meet Constant Lestienne.

In the process, Djere recorded his first career victory over a top-five opponent.

Ruud must now shrug off the disappointment and switch his focus to Melbourne, where he will be hoping to break his grand slam duck.

David Goffin overcame qualifier Christopher Eubanks in straight sets to tee up a last-eight tie with Richard Gasquet, while Jenson Brooksby received a walkover due to Diego Schwartzman's injury.

Unlike Ruud, second seed Cameron Norrie did make it through. The world number 12, who spent the majority of his childhood in New Zealand, enjoyed a homecoming as he saw off Jiri Lehecka 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-3.

Norrie is unbeaten in 2023, having beat Alex De Minaur, Taylor Fritz and Rafael Nadal while in action for Great Britain at the United Cup.

"Obviously, there were [some] nerves in me, coming back to New Zealand I wanted to play well in front of everyone, and Jiri's a great player," said the 27-year-old.

"So, it wasn't easy, and credit to him in that second set for playing a really good tie-break. He really took it to me, but I really enjoyed the time on the court."

There was also a shock at the Adelaide International 2, where top seed Andrey Rublev succumbed to wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Rublev hit back after losing the first set but Kokkinakis ultimately prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-3.

Second seed Pablo Carreno Busta also fell out, losing to Kwon Soon-woo, leaving third seed Karen Khachanov as the favourite after his straight sets defeat of Marc-Andrea Huesler.

Mikael Ymer, Jack Draper, Miomir Kecmanovic, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Roberto Bautista Agut all progressed.

Novak Djokovic took just an hour and 15 minutes to win his first singles match in Australia since 2021, beating Constant Lestienne 6-3 6-2 at the Adelaide International on Tuesday.

Djokovic – who saw a three-year visa ban lifted in November – played with Vasek Pospisil in the doubles on Monday, but this was his first singles outing in the country since his vaccine-related absence from last year's Australian Open.

"For the first match [of the season] I can't complain," Djokovic said. "I played very well. I thought the first six games were very competitive and I have never faced him before.

"But once I made that break at 3-2 in the first set I thought I stepped it up and played really good tennis for the rest of the match."

Elsewhere in Adelaide, third seed Daniil Medvedev advanced after Lorenzo Sonego retired hurt with the Russian leading by a set, while sixth seed Jannik Sinner eased past Kyle Edmund 6-3 6-2.

Seventh seed Denis Shapovalov is also through after coming from a set down to beat Rinky Hijikata, but fourth seed Andrey Rublev is out after losing to Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets.

The Spaniard will face Sebastian Korda next after he beat Andy Murray 7-6 (7-3) 6-3, while eighth seed Karen Khachanov advanced after beating Pedro Cachin 6-2 6-4. 

At the Maharashtra Open in Pune, Aslan Karatsev had no problems seeing off Pablo Andujar 6-1 6-3, with the eighth seed set to face Tim van Rijthoven in the last 16 after the Dutchman beat Radu Albot 6-4 6-4.

There were also wins for Maximilian Marterer against Elias Ymer and Pedro Martinez against Ramkumar Ramanathan.

Wimbledon's ban on Russian and Belarusian players taking part last year was unjust and changed nothing regarding the war in Ukraine, believes Aryna Sabalenka.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) barred players from both countries appearing at SW19 – a decision that saw the organisation fined by the ATP last month.

World number five Sabalenka joined the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Victoria Azarenka in being excluded, and she believes the ban was both unfair and pointless.

"This is really terrible because no one supports war – no one," Sabalenka told The Age of the ban. "I'm just really disappointed sport is somehow in politics. 

"We're just athletes playing their sport. That's it. We're not about politics. If all of us could do something [about the war], we would do it, but we have zero control.

"They banned us from Wimbledon, and what did it change? Nothing. [The Russian government] are still doing this, and this is the sad part of this situation."

The LTA is yet to say whether similar measures will be in place this year, and Sabalenka is hopeful of a return after missing the atmosphere at SW19 in 2022.

"I really missed the people because the atmosphere at Wimbledon is super amazing," she said. "You can feel these people really love tennis there, and I really miss them.

"I really hope that I'll play there, just because of the people, to feel this atmosphere. If they're going to ban us again... I don't care about Wimbledon's decision. The only thing I'll miss is the people."

Cameron Norrie is hoping Russian players will be allowed to return to Wimbledon in 2023, saying he wants "the best players in the world to be playing".

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Russian players were banned from participating at SW19.

This meant the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev were not able to play and compete for the third grand slam of the year, which Novak Djokovic ended up winning for the seventh time.

The tournament was stripped of ranking points as a result of the ban on Russians, a decision that was met with much frustration from players.

Medvedev and Rublev finished a respective seventh and eighth in the year-end ATP rankings, and both took part in the ATP Finals in Turin.

Norrie hopes they are able to return to Wimbledon next year, telling reporters: "For me, I want the best players in the world to be playing.

"I felt last year was tough for those guys, especially for Daniil and for Andrey, who have a chance of winning Wimbledon.

"I know how much those guys sacrificed with their careers and their goals are obviously very high to be winning Slams.

"So I really did feel bad for those guys."

Casper Ruud swept through to a showdown with Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals, making light work of Andrey Rublev to reach the trophy match.

The 23-year-old Norwegian has enjoyed a stunning season, reaching two grand slam finals, and his 6-2 6-4 semi-final dismissal of Russian Rublev was impressively authoritative.

After Ruud coasted through the opening set, the occasion fell wholly flat when Ruud broke serve in the first game of the second, and did so again in the third game.

Rublev sat shaking his head at his chair in the break between games, also shrugging his shoulders towards his support team and looking lost for ideas.

He only began to make an impact after slipping 4-0 behind, and at 5-2 he broke Ruud's serve to narrow the gap and give the Turin crowd hope the contest could take off.

At 5-4, it was briefly tense, but Ruud served for the match for a second time and this time made it count, sealing victory with a brilliant backhand winner to become the first Scandinavian finalist at the ATP Finals since Stefan Edberg in 1990.

Ruud will overtake Rafael Nadal and end the year at number two in the ATP rankings should he carry off the title on Sunday; however, he has a 0-3 career record against Djokovic. Djokovic earlier battled past Taylor Fritz by winning a pair of tight tie-breaks to earn a straight-sets victory in the first of Saturday's semi-finals.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Ruud – 10/0
Rublev – 9/0

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Ruud – 20/0
Rublev – 19/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Ruud – 4/4
Rublev – 1/1

Andrey Rublev produced a stirring fightback to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas and reach the last four of the ATP Finals for the first time on Friday.

Rublev had failed to make it out of the group stage on each of his first two appearances at the season-ending showpiece.

It initially looked as if he would fall short once again in this winner-take-all clash with Tsitsipas, with both men looking to join Novak Djokovic in progressing from the Red Group.

He was outclassed by Tsitsipas in the first set but showed the grit to recover from 0-30 down in the opening game of the second to find a crucial hold of serve.

That proved the catalyst for a stunning turnaround, as Rublev dominated with his fierce forehand and a series of superb passing shots to seal a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory in Turin.

He will face Casper Ruud on Saturday for a place in the final.

Rublev told Prime Video of that semi-final encounter: "I'm really looking forward because Casper is such a nice person, great player, great fighter, he has achieved so many things this season, so it's going to be a really good challenge for me."

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Rublev – 10/2
Tsitsipas – 10/2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Rublev – 36/22
Tsitsipas – 25/12

BREAK POINTS WON

Rublev – 3/5
Tsitsipas – 1/3

Novak Djokovic boosted his hopes of claiming a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title by clinching a semi-final spot with a 6-4 6-1 win over Andrey Rublev in Turin.

Having overcome Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening red group match, Djokovic endured spells of pressure from the sixth seed throughout Wednesday's opening set before clinching the all-important break in the 10th game.

The 21-time grand slam winner found the going far easier in the second set, breaking Rublev's serve at the first opportunity before repeating the trick in the sixth game.

Djokovic's backhand was particularly impressive as he dominated proceedings from the baseline, while the Serbian won 94 per cent of points behind his first serve and did not give up a single break point during the match.

The 35-year-old only committed six unforced errors en route to his 68-minute victory, as he joined Casper Ruud in sealing a place in the final four in Turin. 

Djokovic has now won his opening two group matches in four of his last five campaigns at the ATP Finals, and he appears the strong favourite to equal Roger Federer's record of six titles at the competition.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 12/0
Rublev – 10/1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 19/6
Rublev – 18/17

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 3/4
Rublev – 0/0

Andrey Rublev opened his ATP Finals campaign with a gripping 6-7 (7-9) 6-3 7-6 (9-7) success over compatriot Daniil Medvedev in Turin.

The sixth seed came from behind to beat his fellow Russian in a match lasting over two and a half hours to put himself top of the Red Group, with the pool's other two players, Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, playing later on Monday.

Rublev got off to a fast start, securing a break to put himself 4-1 up in the first set. However, Medvedev saw off two set points to take it to a tie-break, before fending off five more set points on his way to taking an extraordinary opener.

World number seven Rublev hit back with two breaks in a strong second set to level the match, Medvedev not helping himself with six double faults.

Medvedev, the fourth seed, cut down the errors in a tight final set that did not see a solitary break of serve as a tie-break was required to settle an absorbing contest.

But after a remarkable final stand from Medvedev that saw him save four match points, Rublev finally got over the line make a winning start.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Medvedev - 24/8

Rublev - 9/1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Medvedev - 46/26

Rublev - 38/24

BREAK POINTS WON

Medvedev - 1/2

Rublev - 3/9

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