AO2023: Comeback Caro and Djokovic find a way

A second week ticket was the main prize on offer on another captivating day at Melbourne Park.

Caroline Garcia / Troisième tour Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Whether you were watching online, on TV or in the stands in Australia, you needed multiple screens or tickets to keep up with the action on Saturday.

Day six at the Australian Open was an elite exhibition of Grand Slam play. Here are the main storylines from Melbourne Park.

Djokovic defies his "Balkan brother"


At times Novak Djokovic was literally floored by his opponent and their monumental efforts. 

The nine-time champion was relieved to finish in straight sets 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4 against close friend Grigor Dimitrov.

The history-chasing Serbian saved three set points in a thrilling opener, before securing his 15th journey into the Last 16 Down Under.

The left hamstring was still an obvious hindrance for the 21-time Grand Slam champion.

"Up to the very last shot I didn't know whether I was going to prevail," said Djokovic. "Very close first set. Kind of went up and down feeling physically with my leg.

"Just found a way to win in such an exciting match, big battle, over three hours for three sets. If I lost one of these sets, we could have gone really the distance."

Earlier on Saturday, green and gold talisman Alex de Minaur earned a first career meeting with Djokovic, having taken down France's Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(0), 6-2, 6-1.

"He's one of the quickest players on the tour, probably the quickest guy," added Djokovic. "He has improved a lot. He has Lleyton (Hewitt) in his corner. That's a great team. It's going to be a great atmosphere, I'm sure."

No panic as Garcia makes gains

It's the mark of a champion to find a way when the 'A Game' is off the mark, when the back-up plan doesn’t fully materialise.

No.4 seed Caroline Garcia eventually turned the tables 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 to navigate past Laura Siegemund.

"It was a crazy battle. Didn't play some great tennis, but very happy with the way I fought," reflected Garcia, with world No.45 Magda Linette awaiting in the second week.

For the Frenchwoman it's simple, to not panic.

"Everything is a challenge. You first have to fight an opponent, you have to fight yourself, you have to fight the around (circumstances)."

"We are trying the best with the team. Emotions, stress are here obviously. It means you care, you want to do good. You have to adjust, try to find the good balance. I am still alive in this tournament."

Blockbuster set for Sabalenka and Swiss

Top 10 duo Aryna Sabalenka and Belinda Bencic lifted the two Adelaide singles titles earlier this month and carry their unbeaten 2023 streaks into an enticing Last 16 clash.

No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka overpowered her former Australian Open-wining doubles partner Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-3.

"Finally I understand what everyone was looking for and asking for," joked Sabalenka, determined to keep her emotions in check.

"I need to be a little bit boring on court, it's still about a lot of positive emotions for me, but I'm trying to stay away from negative and just fight for every point."

Aryna Sabalenka / Troisième tour Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Bencic nullified the explosive nature of Camilia Giorgi's game 6-2, 7-5 to reach the fourth round for the first time in seven years.

"It's working really well, we are working hard, I'm changing some things," said Bencic, hailing the impact of new coach Dmitry Tursunov in her corner.

"I'm out of my comfort zone and just trying to do things better on the court, trying to be more disciplined and just keep improving my game."

Belinda Bencic / Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Bautista Agut joins stars and stripes trio

The crowd was pumping once again as Andy Murray's gladiatorial fighting spirit threatened another late night classic.

However, No.24 seed Roberto Bautista Agut outlasted the five-time finalist a 6-1, 6-7(7). 6-3 6-4 to sign in for a Last 16 match with Tommy Paul.

Bautista Agut is the favourite from the bottom quarter of the draw, competing for a semi-final spot against three American young guns.

However, Paul posted 6-4, 6-4 to defeat the Spaniard at the 2022 Rolex Paris Masters.

In the same quarter, J.J.Wolf ended fellow American Michael Mmoh's 'Lucky Loser' adventure 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

Wolf will meet another Australian debutant in the fourth round, his compatriot Ben Shelton. The college tennis superstar controlled the court to dispatch Australian wildcard Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4.

Top 10 seeds to collide

How about the raw power that will be on show here.

No.5 seed Andrey Rublev has stormed through his opening three rounds, building confidence in straight sets over Dan Evans.

Rublev's reward is a Paris Masters rematch with teenage sensation Holger Rune.

"He's a young guy, super talented. Going from underdog position all the time, but this year, we'll see. It's going to be challenging for him, and I have nothing to lose against him next time, because he was the one who won our first match," suggested Rublev, who lost 6-4, 7-5 to the Dane in Bercy.

"So he will feel a bit pressure that he would like to win again."

Future is bright for Fruhvirtova

17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova continues to turn heads with her tennis at Melbourne Park. The debutant took out fellow Czech Marketa Vondrousova to earn a second week encounter with Donna Vekic.

"It feels pretty surreal. It's an incredible feeling. I'm just so excited to be able to say, 'Hi second week,'" said the teenager.

"I'm still 17. It's my second main draw appearance in a Grand Slam. I'm through to the last 16 in such a big tournament.

"Obviously Marketa is a really good player that can beat anyone. She just beat No. 2 in the world two days ago. So, I'm very happy about this win."

It was the happiest of birthdays for Zhang Shuai with a last 16 present courtesy of 6-3, 6-2 over qualifier Katie Volynets. The No.23 seed will shoot for the quarter-finals against former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova.