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Djokovic leaves no doubt about intentions for AO 2024

  • Gill Tan

After etching his name into yet another part of tennis history, Novak Djokovic says he's fired up to topple even more records.

MORE: All the scores from Day 8 at AO 2024

By reaching the last eight at the Australian Open for the fourteenth time, the world No.1 secured his 58th Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance to equal Roger Federer’s record.

Djokovic, 36, surged past Adrian Mannarino 6-0 6-0 6-3 under a closed roof at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday, and was unyielding in the one hour and 44-minute encounter.

“The first two sets [were some] of the best sets I’ve played in a while,” said the 10-time AO champion.

MORE: AO 2024 men's singles draw

The Serbian star was hunting the first triple bagel in Australian Open history and first since Sergi Bruguera at Roland Garros in 1993, before his southpaw rival fought his way to the scoreboard.

“I really wanted to lose that game in the third set because the tension was building up so much in the stadium. I just needed to get that one out of the way so I can refocus on what I need to do to close out the match,” said Djokovic.

Djokovic never let Mannarino settle in their first meeting since 2018

The victory is among his best wins by scoreline in a completed match at a major – he has limited four other opponents to just three games and five rivals to just two games.

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“I played great from the first until the last point,” said Djokovic, who extended his unbeaten record against 20th seeded Mannarino to 5-0, and against left-handed players at Melbourne Park to 11-0.

“It’s never easy to play Adrian who is a very unorthodox player, uses the angles really well and has gotten one of the flattest and most consistent backhands in the game,” added the top seed, who hadn’t faced the Frenchman since 2018.

“It's kind of cat and mouse – I had to physically endure the long rallies and try to run him around the court, which I did,” added the Serb, who won 17 of the 25 rallies that extended nine shots or longer. 

The 24-time major champion stayed laser-focused and repeatedly tapped his temple to reiterate his mental fortitude during the battle.

“I served very well in the moments when I needed to come up with a first serve … all in all, a great performance,” said Djokovic.

One of his 17 aces snuffed out Mannarino’s third and last break point during the lengthy 11-minute third game of the second set. All in, the world No.1 landed 70 per cent of his first serves in, his best effort this tournament.

“I prepared myself very well and executed perfectly,” he added.

After stating he was “under the weather” a week ago, the father-of-two said on Sunday that both his health and tennis are heading in a “positive direction.”

Considering his myriad accomplishments and general dominance of the sport, Djokovic believed he might be less tense on court this season – but no. “It is as it always was – very high intensity,” said the Serb. “I always look for the best performance from myself … when it doesn't happen, I'm frustrated.

“The fire is still burning … that's what allowed me to be where I am and achieve the things that I have achieved.

“I love the thrill of facing a break point or having a break point, just those kind of emotions are still awakening something that is very deep.  

“Winning majors, breaking records and being at the top of the game is something that is always an objective and a goal,” he said.

On Tuesday, the top seed will aim to inch closer to a history-making 25th Grand Slam when he tackles 12th seed Taylor Fritz, who vanquished seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the AO 2023 runner-up.

The Serb has a polished 8-0 record against the American, though he was pushed to five sets at AO 2021.

“I’m going to have to serve like I did today but I’m confident,” said Fritz, who won 86 per cent of first serve points against Tsitsipas.

“If I’m able to play like I did today, I’ll have a chance.”