AO2023: Djokovic dominates, Sabalenka on song

Day 10 was a pivotal day, who could rise to the occasion to sign into the Australian Open semi-finals?

Novak Djokovic / Quarts de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Dreams came true at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.

Familiar faces continue to re-write history, whilst some fresh faces join the contender conversation at the 2023 Australian Open. Here are the key storylines from Down Under…

44 and counting for defiant Djokovic

In an ominous sign for the remaining challengers, Novak Djokovic "could not be happier" with his tennis.

The nine-time champion booked his 10th semi-final at Melbourne Park. There's a pattern here.

The history-chasing Serbian backed up his textbook demolition of Alex de Minaur in the fourth round to swat aside world No.6 Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to earn a 44th Grand Slam semi-final spot.

"I would rank it as number two, it was close to the performance of two nights ago," said the 21-time major winner.

"I cannot be happier with my tennis honestly, I've been playing very solid from the back of the court and I really love playing in these conditions on this court.

"In all the important moments I played my best tennis so that's what makes me the most pleased."

On Friday it's over to world No.35 Tommy Paul to attempt to derail the 35-year-old.

"Obviously he doesnt have much to lose, first time in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam," continued Djokovic.

"If I play this way I think I have a good chance to go through."

Novak Djokovic / Quarts de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Paul leaps into dreamland

Earlier on Wednesday Paul became the first American man to reach the last four in Melbourne since Andy Roddick in 2009.

At his fourth Australian Open, his 14th major main draw, the 25-year-old defeated compatriot and breakout star Ben Shelton 7-6(6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.

"I was doing a couple of interviews, they were asking how it felt to be in the quarter-finals and I said, 'Semi-finals sounds a little better.' Pumped to be there," beamed the American.

"Making it to the second week of a Slam, that's everyone's dream when they start to play tennis. I can't believe I'm here right now."

Despite the mesmerising form of Djokovic, Paul was buoyed by the prospect of going toe-to-toe with one of the all-time greats.

"I'm really excited. It's really cool. That's probably who I want to play, probably have a better chance of winning if it's Rublev, but to play Novak here in Australia would be awesome," suggested Paul.

"Obviously he's pretty comfortable here in Australia. It's going to be a challenging match.

But I'm playing some of my best tennis, so it's a good time."

Sabalenka on a mission

Nine matches, all 18 sets in her favour, Aryna Sabalenka has started the season in sizzling form.

The fifth seed portrayed her resilience to save 12 of 14 break points in a tense 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Donna Vekic.

"I feel like I have belief that no matter what happens on court, I'll be able to get through it," insisted the 24-year-old.

Sabalenka adds a Melbourne semi-final to her resume, alongside final four appearances at Wimbledon 2021 and the US Open in the past two seasons. No major final, yet.

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

"I feel a little bit different. I think that I lost those three semi-finals just because I wasn't really calm on court. I was overdoing things," added the world No.5.

"I really wanted to get a slam. I was rushing a lot. I was nervous a lot. Screaming, doing all this stuff.

"Right now, I'm a little bit more calm on court. I think I really believe that this is the only thing that was missing in my game. If I can keep stay that focus and that calm on court, I can get through it."

Sabalenka's Grand Slam credentials will be scrutinised by Magda Linette.

In her 30th major main draw, the Pole has torn apart her previous Grand Slam results. Until this fortnight the third round was her best run at all four majors.

Linette was in complete disbelief at match point, upsetting former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 to become the third Polish woman to book an Australian Open semi-final in the Open Era.

The world No.45, falling in straight sets in both previous clashes with Sabalenka, follows in the footsteps of Iga Swiatek and Agnieszka Radwanksa, the latter cheering Linette on from the player's box.

"I will never forget this," said the 30-year-old. "It's the first time ever I'm breaking through… this will stay with me for life.

“Dreams come true, we keep going. I don't want to get too excited because we're still in the tournament, but I'm super grateful and happy.”