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Infosys | Officil digital innovation partner

Defending champ Djokovic advances again

Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic will contest his 11th Australian Open quarterfinal following a commanding victory over dogged Argentine Diego Schwartzman on Sunday.

The second seed had the 14th seed scurrying to the far reaches of the court at Rod Laver Arena in a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory.

Despite having prevailed on all three occasions the pair had met, Djokovic was well prepared for the danger that zipped about the baseline across from him.

MORE: AO2020 men’s draw

“It feels great. I had a fantastic couple of matches in a row, center court, last two rounds,” Djokovic said.

“I felt more confident going through the ball, hitting serves really well.

“Today was a good test because Diego was in form, he hasn't dropped a set in three rounds. Obviously he can be a very dangerous opponent from the baseline if you give him time. I knew that.

“I stepped out on the court with a clear game plan what I need to do. I think I kept things pretty much in control in all three sets.

“Maybe could have finished the match a bit earlier. But, you know, all in all, it was a very solid performance.”

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26 Jan 20
Diego Schwartzman vs. Novak Djokovic - Match Highlights (R4) | Australian Open 2020

Diego no match for Novak

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Schwartzman was looking for his first win over a top-five ranked player, having failed to succeed in 21 prior attempts.

But he had led the Serbian two sets to one in the third round at Roland Garros three years ago before being rolled in five.

In the first set on a balmy, sunny afternoon in Melbourne with the arena’s namesake Rod Laver watching front and centre, Schwartzman stood toe to toe with the 16-time major champion.

Neither player faced a break point until the eighth game when Djokovic turned the screws to snatch a 5-3 advantage.

As he served out the opening set at the 39-minute mark, his long-time coach Marian Vajda and co-coach Goran Ivanisevic stood in acknowledgement.

This was a crucial set against a supremely fit opponent and a match which was proving more challenging than the scoreline suggested.

Even with healthy leads in each set, Djokovic at times berated himself.

It was a sign of the perfection he was demanding of himself and the respect for a hustling opponent who had the potential to seriously unsettle him.

Having fallen behind two sets, a loose game from the Argentine gifted Djokovic the early break in the third set and the writing was on the wall.

Ruthless ball-striking brought up three match points and when Schwartzman rolled a backhand wide, the Serbian was through to his 46th Grand Slam quarterfinal.

“It’s the fourth round of a Grand Slam and Diego is a great quality player,” Djokovic said.

“He has had a terrific tournament in first three rounds. I knew if gave him time he could do damage from the back of court … I tried to mix it up, maybe bring him to the net a few times with the slice and it worked really well.”

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Diego Schwartzman reacts during his match with Novak Djokovic

Djokovic will carry an even more lopsided head-to-head record into his quarterfinal when he meets the resurgent Milos Raonic.

The Canadian has not beaten Djokovic in nine previous attempts but comes in fresh, after defeating former world No.3 Marin Cilic in straight sets on Sunday.

Cilic, a runner-up to Roger Federer two years ago, had his chances in the third set when he conjured a pair of set points at 5-4 on Raonic’s serve.

Both though were saved with an ace as Raonic went on to break in the following game before serving out the clash on his 35th ace.

“That was a rollercoaster. He was playing better through most of first set and I was lucky to get that through,” Raonic said.

“I haven’t gotten to do this over the last few years so it means a lot to me. It feels pretty damn good I’ve got to say.”

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26 Jan 20
Milos Raonic vs. Marin Cilic - Match Highlights (R4) | Australian Open 2020

Rampaging Raonic claims another scalp

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From Schwartzman to now facing Raonic, Djokovic had players with polar opposite game styles and he was aware he would need to take a different approach against the ball-bludgeoning Canadian.

“Milos is one of the tallest, one of strongest on tour; he has one of the biggest serves,” Djokovic said. 

“I’ve got to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net. I remember it really well playing him four to five years ago in the quarterfinals. One of keys will be how well I’m returning and how confident I am in my service games.”

More to come

Diego no match for Novak

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Battle thoughts: Novak Djokovic v Diego Schwartzman

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