Sun, 29 Jan 2023

Novak Djokovic, Aryna Sabalenka favored entering Aussie quarters

Field Level Media
24 Jan 2023, 05:40 GMT+10

Novak Djokovic said he was pain-free in dismantling Alex de Minaur to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, which serves as a major red flag for the seven other remaining players in the men's singles draw in Melbourne.

Djokovic had been concerned about his ability to complete the two-week tournament due to a left hamstring injury, but said he felt "fantastic" while dispatching de Minaur 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the quarters in Australia for the 13th time.

Djokovic, the No. 4 seed, is now the -200 favorite by BetMGM to win his 10th Australian Open and tie Rafael Nadal for the most all-time Grand Slam titles with 22.

"The way my leg felt before tonight wasn't giving me too many hopes, so to say, for the entire tournament, to go all the way through," he said after the match. "Tonight I feel that, so I feel positive about it."

Djokovic will next face Russia's Andrey Rublev, who only survived a fifth-set tiebreaker against Holger Rune courtesy of a net cord on match point.

"No one wants to face Novak. I'd rather be in any other part of the draw," Rublev said after the match.

Oddsmakers feel the same way, as Rublev holds the fifth-longest odds to win the men's title at 1600 despite being one of three top-five seeds remaining. No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who survived his one five-set marathon in the fourth round, is second to Djokovic at 350, and will next play unseeded Jiri Lehecka (4000).

There are three Americans remaining among the final eight in Melbourne for the first time since 2000. No. 29 seed Sebastian Korda (900) will take on 18th-seeded Karen Khachanov.

At least one American man will reach the semifinals. Tommy Paul (2200) will battle Brian Shelton (5000), who rallied to win the final two sets against countryman J.J. Wolf in the fourth round. Paul and the 20-year-old Shelton will be playing in their first career Grand Slam quarterfinals.

In the women's draw, Aryna Sabalenka enters the quarterfinals as the 225 favorite. The fifth-seeded Belarusian has not dropped a set while taking out a pair of ranked players en route to the quarters.

Sabalenka is favored over No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula and No. 22 Elena Rybakina, who are both being offered at 325.

Pegula faces a tough quarterfinal match against No. 24 Victoria Azarenka (1200), whose previous two major titles both came at the Australian Open (2012-13).

"I feel more confident," Pegula said after her fourth-round match. "I feel more experienced being in this position. I feel a little more settled than I have in the past."

Rybakina will take on hard-hitting Jelena Ostapenko (1200), who dispatched American Coco Gauff in straight sets to become the first Latvian woman to reach the quarters of the Australian Open.

The women's draw has been marked by big upsets.

After Pegula and Sabalenka, the highest-ranked remaining player is Ostapenko at No. 17.

Top-seeded Iga Swiatek was upset in the fourth round, while No. 2 Ons Jabeur failed to make it out of the second. No. 4 seed Caroline Garcia continued the upset trend when she fell to Magda Linette in the final match of the fourth round for the women.

Linette (1400) is one of two unseeded players to reach the quarterfinals. She joins Donna Vekic (1200), the 26-year-old tour veteran who will attempt to take out Sabalenka. Linette will face 30th-seeded Karolina Pliskova (1000).

--Field Level Media

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