breaking:Leading Djokovic advances to the Australian Open..

Leading Djokovic advances to the Australian Open final eight.

World No 1 drops just three games in win over Adrian Mannarino to match Roger Federer’s record of 58 grand slam quarter-finals..

It was hard to know if Adrian Mannarino was joking when, having reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for only the second time in his career with a hold-the-phone victory over Ben Shelton, he identified tequila as the secret to his longevity. After a 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 drubbing by Novak Djokovic, however, the 35-year-old Frenchman would hardly be human if he didn’t feel tempted to reach for the bottle.

Novak Djokovic says signs are 'positive' he will play Australian Open  despite visa ban | Novak Djokovic | The Guardian

Mannarino did not play badly; far from it. Few players have a more instinctive feel for the geometry of a tennis court than the mercurial southpaw, and his mastery of line and length meant the baseline exchanges were never less than competitive. Djokovic, however, was relentless, his physical and mental intensity off the charts as he refused to allow an opponent with a trio of five-set wins in his legs a moment’s respite.

By the time two sets had rolled by, Mannarino was reduced to incredulous laughter, miming his predicament to his team at the changeover as he made two circles with his fingers to form a pair of spectacles. Two games later, when he finally held serve for the first time to make a belated impression on the scoreboard, the Frenchman was afforded a rapturous ovation. Djokovic, meanwhile, was impassive – until Alison Hughes, the British chair umpire, started the shot clock before the din had died down, prompting a furious reaction from the 10-time champion.

“The tension in the third set, it was so big, whether he’s going to win a game or not,” said Djokovic after advancing to a 58th grand slam quarter-final to equal Roger Federer’s record. “The crowd wanted him to win a game and be in the match. I almost felt like it’s good to give away the game, just to be able to reset and refocus because the tension is growing as the match progresses without him winning a game.

“I think, of course, it’s tough for him, but also for me to be able to not think about that, not think about the triple bagel.

“It was a very clean overall performance, against always a tricky opponent who plays a kind of a cat-and-mouse type of tennis. Has a very flat backhand, uses his talent and his touch very well, puts you in a very uncomfortable position on the court, makes you work.”

That much was evident when one punishing rally early in the second set left Djokovic bent double on the baseline, clutching at his shin and almost retching as he struggled for breath. The Serbian world No 1 has been suffering from a viral infection over the past week and, as he ran down the shot clock, stalling for time, Mannarino sensed an opportunity. Djokovic had won eight straight games up to that point; a break would have offered Mannarino an opportunity to reset, to get back on serve, to be something more than a bystander at his own execution.

Now was the time for a flash of French brilliance, a party piece like the astonishing drop volley Mannarino produced against Shelton, a stroke so heavily cut that, as it spun off violently at a 180-degree angle, he gleefully turned his back, confident in the knowledge the point was won. Djokovic has a few party pieces of his own, however, and he responded to the danger with one of his favourites: a precise 124mph ace down the centre line that left Mannarino flailing at thin air. The Frenchman would not see another break point, the chief interest from thereon lying in whether Djokovic would go on to claim the first 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 win at a major since Sergei Bruguera humbled Thierry Champion by that score at the French Open in 1993.

“I thought maybe I would this year feel slightly more relaxed, for lack of better term, or maybe less tension,” said Djokovic, who would claim an all-time record were he to win a 25th grand slam title a week from now. “But it’s not. It is as it always was: very high intensity.

“You can see it even today. I was 6-0, 2-0 up. It was a long game, and I was like going on with discussions, heated discussions, with my box. I always look for the best performance from myself.”

Having raised his level significantly since the opening two rounds, in which he was taken to four sets first by Dino Prizmic, a Croatian qualifier, and then by Alexei Popyrin, the Australian world No 43, Djokovic will face Taylor Fritz of the United States for a place in the last four. Fritz, the 12th seed, defeated last year’s finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 to set up a repeat of his third-round meeting with Djokovic in Rod Laver Arena three years ago, when the Serb suffered an abdominal injury before prevailing in five dramatic sets.

“I think that I have a lot more level to bring than I’ve previously brought against him,” said Fritz following his maiden top-10 win at a major. “Hopefully, I can play another match like today.”

The winner of that match will play either Jannik Sinner or Andrey Rublev, respectively seeded fourth and fifth, who advanced to the last eight in contrasting style.

Sinner, who has won two of his last three meetings with Djokovic and has yet to drop a set in Melbourne, claimed a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

Rublev was forced to take a more circuitous route to victory, prevailing 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-0 against Alex de Minaur to prolong Australia’s 48-year wait for a home champion.

“The match was basically changed when he started to get a little bit more fatigued and he started to realise that he probably had to go after it a little bit more, and adopted a more aggressive game style,” said De Minaur, adding that his downfall owed nothing to the pressure of domestic expectations.

“He executed that and I wasn’t able to expose his movement. Nothing about pressure. Nothing about expectation. None of that.”

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