Jannik Sinner continued his mastery of Alex de Minaur to progress to his first Australian Open quarterfinal.
The 20-year-old Italian beat De Minaur 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena to book a showdown with the winner of Monday night's fourth-round match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz.
Sinner, seeded 11th, has dropped just one set in four match wins so far this fortnight.
Sinner and De Minaur were each seeking their second major quarterfinal, after reaching the last eight at 2020's Roland Garros and US Open respectively.
But while their Grand Slam CVs read similarly, the head-to-head was more lopsided.
Sinner had never lost to the Aussie, dominating their title match at the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2019 before triumphing in three sets a year later in Sofia, Bulgaria.
De Minaur recognised the challenge ahead, given he'd both practised with and played against the young Italian.
"I know what's coming: immense firepower," said De Minaur, who was seeking to become just the third Aussie male quarterfinalist – after Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios – in the past 20 years at Melbourne Park.
"I'm going to have to be ready to … not get bullied around the court and really take it to him."
How the match unfolded
And that's what De Minaur did, for the majority of the first set.
This match-up was supposed to pit his superb defence against Sinner's brutal ball-striking, but De Minaur's early aggression helped him generate four break points across Sinner's first two service games.
Yet he was unable to convert any of them, and when the set reached the tiebreak, Sinner wrested control of it with an early minibreak and reeled off five of the final six points to pocket the first set.
From here, it was a different match.
"I went into my confidence and after I played a little bit stronger, I tried to move him a little bit," Sinner explained.
After saving two break points in the opening game of the second set, Sinner broke De Minaur's serve with a forehand return that forced an error, taking a 2-0 lead.
And now De Minaur was under siege, facing an opponent who played like a machine from the baseline and who refused to cede court to the Australian.
Sinner maintained his service-break advantage to take the second set, and really opened his shoulders in the third; changing direction on the ball effectively, he broke De Minaur immediately, then took a 3-1 lead with an off-backhand winner.
He made it a double break in the next game, powering a cross-court forehand that De Minaur could not return.
While De Minaur found some winners and an ace to claw one of the breaks back, Sinner had too much momentum, and served out the match to love four games later.
The key stat
After nine games, with De Minaur ahead 5-4 in the first set, he and Sinner had struck 10 winners apiece.
But by the time Sinner clinched the tiebreak, he'd skipped ahead 18-10 in the winners tally, and became increasingly dominant from the baseline.
Controlling the centre of the court, Sinner relentlessly and aggressively directed the ball from side to side, and sometimes down the lines, to overwhelm the Australian.
He finished with 35 winners to De Minaur's 24, improving his head-to-head record against the Aussie to 3-0.
What it means for De Minaur
Despite the loss, this was a breakthrough for De Minaur at his home Slam – his first appearance in the second week.
His AO result has contributed to a 5-2 start the season, an impressive way to rebound after a forgettable second half of 2021.
"Positive vibes only for 2022 is my motto," said De Minaur, whose only losses this year so far have come against top-10 opponents.
"Overall I think it's been a good Aussie summer for me. I've played some good matches, had some good results.
"Obviously a little bit of a bittersweet ending. Didn't really want my Australian Open campaign to be done tonight, but it's just how it went today."
What next for Sinner?
The world No.10 will play for a place in his first Grand Slam semifinal.
And although he has lost his most recent meetings with both Tsitsipas and Fritz, the manner in which he is both playing, and speaking, suggest a player brimming with confidence.
"I think I made a lot of experience in the last couple of months, and I think I've grown as a player and also a person. At 20, you can only grow," said Sinner, who has won 32 of his past 40 matches dating back to August.
"Obviously I'm very happy to be here in the quarterfinals."
With his win over De Minaur, Sinner improved his 2022 win-loss record to an unbeaten 7-0.