‘Relieved’ Novak Djokovic ups his game and eases into Australian Open fourth round

Adrian Mannarino wins third consecutive five-setter, this time against young American Ben Shelton

Novak Djokovic admitted that he is relieved to feel his performance level rising at the Australian Open after he played his best match of the tournament so far, outclassing Tomás Martín Etcheverry 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (2) to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

“It was a great match,” said Djokovic. “I think the best performance I had during this tournament. Obviously I’m pleased with the way I played the entire match, particularly the first two sets. He stepped it up, he raised his level of tennis probably one or two levels in the third set. We went toe-to-toe in the tiebreak, I guess I just found the right shots and closed in straights.”

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne after struggling with wrist problems in the first week of the season. Then, in the first two rounds, he struggled to find his feet. Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin made life uncomfortable for him, with both players taking a set and forcing him to respond.

Popyrin held points to go two sets to one up against a listless Djokovic in the second round. Although he asserted that he still has not produced his best tennis, the top seed noted that his level was rising.


“I’m really relieved and glad that I played the way I played and felt the way I felt tonight,” said the world No 1. “Definitely much better than what was the case in the first two matches. Coming into the tournament I haven’t really felt great health-wise, physically, and also game-wise.

“It’s all connected obviously. I haven’t had the best out of the tournament in terms of the quality of tennis, but I’m in the fourth round. I believe that things will progress as the tournament goes on. That’s the case tonight and today. Hopefully every day will be better.”

There will be no rematch of the fiery US Open semi-final between Djokovic and Ben Shelton after Adrian Mannarino, the 20th seed, recovered from two sets to one down to topple the 16th seed 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 after nearly five hours.

Mannarino, 35, has reached the fourth round for the second time, after three consecutive five-set wins. While most players around his age tend to be on a downward curve, the Frenchman is enjoying the best period of his 20-year career and he sits at a personal best ranking of 19 having just broken the top 20 for the first time.

Mannarino’s playing style is simply unique. His extremely compact swings on his groundstrokes allow him to redirect pace and change direction with ease. While Shelton cracked 226km/h serves and looked to overpower the Frenchman, Mannarino relished in deflecting the American’s first strikes with even more added pace. Afterwards, asked for the secret to his late-career success, Mannarino shrugged: “I started tequila,” he said. He faces Djokovic next.

Jannik Sinner, meanwhile, continues to fly, the Italian completely demolishing Sebastián Báez, the Argentinian 26th seed, 6-0, 6-1, 6-3.

“I felt the ball great,” he said. “I made the right decisions, and I used every chance I had today, which maybe in the first match I was struggling a little bit. But, you know, it’s good to have this feeling back again. I’m very excited to step on the court every time. I’m doing my job. I try to stay focused. I try to find a solution against every player I play.” - Guardian

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