Day 8 Preview: Djokovic, Demon Clash Down Under | TBEN | Tennis

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Novak Djokovic look set to avoid defeat to home favorite Alex de Minaur when they meet in the fourth round at the 2023 Australian Open on Monday. Also on Monday’s card is a Rod Laver Arena showdown that will see the clash between Top-10 seeds Andrey Rublev and Holger Rune will decide. And the Americans want to continue their strong performance in Melbourne, where Tommy Paul, JJ Wolf and Ben Shelton all compete in the round of 16.

ATPTour.com looks at what to see on Day 8 at Melbourne Park as players bid for a spot in the quarterfinals.

[4] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [22] Alex de Minaur (AUS)

With a potential 10th Australian Open crown in sight, the fourth seed must first pass a tricky test under the lights of the Rod Laver Arena as home hopes De Minaur look to ruin the Serb’s chances in their first meeting.

Djokovic, who hasn’t lost in Melbourne since 2018 (didn’t play in 2022), is aiming to earn his 25th consecutive Australian Open win and match his longest streak of wins at the first Slam of the season.

The 21-time champion, who has been battling a hamstring injury since the ATP 250 event in Adelaide earlier this month, has dropped just one set in his first three matches and remains optimistic the injury will not hinder his title chances.

“It requires a lot of energy expended on my part both mentally and physically,” said Djokovic of his injury problem that has seen him play with a tied left hamstring for two weeks. “To cope with the match with my opponent and also not the ideal physical state. It is what it is. It’s a kind of circumstance that you have to accept. I’m just really thankful that I can actually play. As it looked just before the tournament, I thought it wouldn’t be possible. I’m still here and I’m holding on.”

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Should the Minaur stun Djokovic, the Aussie would match his best Grand Slam performance (2020 US Open QFs). With the home crowd behind him, the Minaur has reason to believe he could be added to this year’s Australian Open roster. The Sydney native recorded his first win against a Top-5 opponent in November when he beat Daniil Medvedev at the Rolex Paris Masters and followed that up with a win against Rafael Nadal at the season-opening United Cup.

[5] Andrew Rublev vs. [9] Holger Rune (DEN)

After both men end their third-round matches, Monday’s game is sure to be an exciting battle from the baseline. On Saturday, Rublev crushed 60 winners to beat Britain’s Daniel Evans. The Danish teenager will try to counter Rublev’s hard blows with his own strength and precision.

Rublev makes a bid to reach the quarterfinals of a Slam for the seventh time and second Down Under. Rublev was a four-time title holder last season, putting in strong performances in the first three rounds against Dominic Thiem, Emil Ruusuvuori and 2020 finalist Evans. Rublev is looking for revenge from last season, when Rune defeated him at the ATP Masters 1000- event in Paris on his way to clinching the biggest title of his career.

Rune, 19, has not given up a set this tournament. The teenager wants to become the youngest man to reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Open since 1990 (Andrey Cherkasov). Rune, the 2022 Roland Garros quarter-finalist (l. Ruud), is looking to match his best Grand Slam performance in his second appearance in Melbourne.

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[24] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs. Tommy Paul (USA)

Although the Spaniard leads the ATP Head2Head series 3-1, ‘RBA’ will take revenge at Margaret Court Arena after the American won their most recent encounter at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Bautista Agut is doing everything he can to reach the quarterfinals in Melbourne for the second time and match his best result at the Australian Open. If he continues, he would become the fifth Spanish man in the Open Era to reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Open multiple times (Nadal, Ferrer, Moya, Ferrero).

After riding through the opening round, Bautista Agut came back from two sets to love to beat American Brandon Holt and in the third round, the 34-year-old needed three hours and 29 minutes to outlast Andy Murray.

Paul looks set to carry over his momentum from Saturday’s win, when he conceded just eight games to compatriot Jenson Brooksby. The world number 35, who matched his best Grand Slam result (Wimbledon 2022), wants to join Sebastian Korda and the winner of Shelton and Wolf in the quarter-finals. The last time three Americans reached the last eight at the Australian Open was in 2000 (Sampras, Agassi, Woodruff).

Ben Shelton (USA) vs JJ Wolf (USA)

The all-American clash between Ben Shelton and JJ Wolf features two former college luminaries. The winner becomes the fourth man in the past 20 years to reach the quarterfinals on his debut at the Australian Open. With Sebastian Korda already through to the last eight, two American men are guaranteed to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the first time since 2007.

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Shelton, who won the 2022 NCAA singles title at the University of Florida, is hoping to continue his dream run in his second Grand Slam appearance. After surviving a five-set opening match against Zhang Zhizhen, the American solidified the win in straight sets against Nicolas Jarry and Alexei Popyrin.

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With a heavy serve and the ability to hit winners from all corners of the court, Shelton would rise in the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings with a victory over his compatriot. Last season, the 20-year-old made rapid progress on the ATP Challenger Tour, becoming the youngest player to win three Challenger titles (Charlottesville, Knoxville, Champaign) in as many weeks.

Wolf, 24, is aiming to improve on what is already his best major achievement. The former Ohio State University star gave up just one set all week en route to knocking out Jordan Thompson, Diego Schwartzman and Michael Mmoh.

In doubles…

Top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski kick off Kia Arena action against Nikola Cacic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. On Court 3, third seed Jean-Julien Rojer and Marcelo Arevalo meet Dutch duo Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop. 2020 Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury continue their title fight against Polish team Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski.

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