AO2023: Flawless Djokovic, Garcia bows out

 - Alex Sharp

The quarter-final last eights were completed on an enthralling day eight at Australian Open 2023.

Novak Djokovic Australian Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

It's officially the business end at Melbourne Park.

Australian Open 2023 continues to produce a plethora of fascinating storylines. Let's catch up on the key action…

Flawless Djokovic feeling fine

In an ominous sign for the draw, Novak Djokovic now believes he can soar all the way to a 10th Australian Open title.

His troublesome left hamstring appears to be on the mend, the Serbian was in devastating form on Monday night, swatting aside home charge Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.

"A week ago I didn't really think about the title, I just thought about being in a good enough condition to play the next match until tonight," admitted the 35-year-old. 

"The way I played, the way I felt, gives me reason now to believe that I can go all the way."

Djokovic surged into the final eight for a duel with Andrey Rublev.

The world No.6 escaped from two match points down 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6[11-9] in a frenetic clash with Holger Rune. 

"A rollercoaster is more easier," quipped the 25-year-old.

"I was 5-2 down in the fifth set, 6-5 down two match points, then 5-0, 7-2 down in the super tie-break. In my life I've never been able to win matches like this."

Djokovic leads their previous encounters at 2-1 and Rublev knows he will be fighting as the underdog.

"Novak is a very tough player to beat, especially on the slams," continued the world No.6. "He's one of the best in history. The only chance I have is if I play my best tennis, just fight for every ball, and that's it."

Andrey Rublev / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Linette riding the wave


When you take out the No.19, No.16 and No.4 seeds you deserve to scoop a first Grand Slam quarter-final. 

Poland's Magda Linette overturned a 3-0 double break to send Caroline Garcia home 7-6(3), 6-4. 

"I still can't believe it. I don't know what happened," said the Pole.

"Coming on the court I was confident with how well I was playing, but she's such an amazing opponent and such a tough one, especially on a big stage. I'm just glad I stayed composed throughout the whole first set, and managed to come back again."

Linette advances to unchartered territory to battle with former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova.

The Czech needed just 55 minutes to navigate past Zhang Shuai to reach the final eight of the Australian Open for the fourth time. 

"The last couple months I played her two times. I won really close match in US Open first round, 7-6 in the third. Quite lucky. Then I lost at the Fed Cup," recalled Pliskova, regarding her clash with Linette. 

"I think she really improved her game a lot. She start to believe. She's a fighter, playing really good game from the baseline. I just can't give her the time and that game what she wants to play."

Aryna Sabalenka / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Undefeated and on fire 


Aryna Sabalenka and Donna Vekic have enjoyed unbeaten starts to their campaigns, now something has to give.

Sabalenka has been dominant on serve, moving onto her best Australian Open showing 7-5, 6-2 against the inform Belinda Bencic.

"I'm super happy to be in the quarter-final and the level today on court," said Sabalenka who brushed off a lethargic start to crush 32 winners.  "She's unbelievable player, was able to come back in the match. Super happy with the mindset on court."

Having not dropped a set in eight matches this season, Sabalenka advances for an intriguing battle with the rejuvenated Donna Vekic.

The Croatian, who leads their head-to-head at 5-1, halted teenage sensation Linda Fruhvirtova over three sets to gain a last eight clash. 

"I've been watching a lot of tennis. Somehow I didn't manage to catch her playing," said 2019 US Open quarter-finalist Vekic, who has also won all six matches in 2023.

"I've read, of course, on Twitter that she's playing maybe the best tennis on the women's side this Australian Open.

"I have a great head-to-head with her. All of our matches have been really tough, so I'm sure next one will be, as well."

Trio flying the flag


For the first time in 23 years American tennis can boast three men in the Australian Open quarter-final roster. 

Joining Sebastian Korda, Tommy Paul was "stoked" to portray his progression with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory facing Roberto Bautista Agut. 

"I'm playing in the quarterfinals in two days. I'm not satisfied," claimed unseeded Paul. "Semi-final sounds a lot better than quarter-final every day of the week. Yeah, I'm excited."

The World No.35 will shoot for the final four over the net from college tennis superstar Ben Shelton.

The 20-year-old saw off countryman J.J. Wolf 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-2 to keep his dream run going,

"Definitely a surprise," said Shelton, whose dad Bryan was a former professional player.

" It being my first time, never being out of the United States, I knew it would be a struggle. 

"So I think it maybe has helped me a little bit, kind of not having that expectation or the feeling that I have to perform, but being able to just go out there, be myself and play free. 

"I think that's been a big contribution to my success."