AO 2024 – Day 8: Sinner and Djokovic dominate

The reigning champions still remain in the hunt with Elite 8 spots filled in Melbourne.

Jannik Sinner Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Champion instincts clicked in for the top seeds and major players on a high-quality Sunday at Australian Open 2024.

Quarter-finals were the desired destination. Who extended their stay? Here are the key headlines from Down Under…

Another significant step for smiling Sinner

The last time Jannik Sinner and Karen Khachanov collided on a Grand Slam stage, the Italian surrendered a two-sets lead at US Open 2020.

Since then the world No.4 has firmly established himself as a key contender, without a major final or trophy to reflect his remarkable game.

Momentum is certainly on Sinner's side, bouncing past 2023 semi-finalist Khachanov 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 by torching the ball, whilst also illustrating his variety with 26 out of 29 success rate at the net.

Cracking jokes in interviews, competing with his ice-cool demeanour, the 22-year-old is embracing life at the top with a smile. 

"Obviously very, very tough to play against him. We have quite similar game style, so it's everything flat. It's a kind of 'ping, pong, ping, ping' but still it's sometimes trying to mix it up the game which I tried to do and I'm very happy," said Sinner, who still hasn't lost a set this tournament.

"At least I tried to stay calm from outside but inside you have so many emotions and feelings. You have to stay there trying to play a little bit with with the poker face and mine is not actually right."

For now, Sinner hasn't needed his poker face too much, however, he'll face plenty of firepower again in the quarter-finals against Andrey Rublev.

The No.5 seed posted his 10th major quarter-final and 300th tour-level victory with a captivating 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-0 epic with home talisman Alex de Minaur.

58 and counting for Nole

Driven by historic achievements, 24-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic continues his march towards No.25 and an unprecedented 11th triumph in Melbourne.

The world No.1 equalled Roger Federer's record 58th major quarter-final spot with a brutal 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 demolition of French marathon man Adrian Mannarino.

“The first two sets, some of the best sets I’ve played in a while,” said Djokovic, into his 14th quarter-final at Melbourne Park. "I played great from the first until the last point.”

Under the weather at the start of the tournament, relinquishing a set to youngsters Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin, Djokovic has dug in and, as per usual, delivered with defiance.

“The fire is still burning. That's what allowed me to be where I am and achieve the things that I have achieved," added the 36-year-old.

“I love the thrill of facing a break point or having a break point, just those kind of emotions are still awakening something that is very deep.  

“Winning majors, breaking records and being at the top of the game is something that is always an objective and a goal."

Over to Taylor Fritz to try and dethrone Djokovic. Eight previous matches, eight victories for Djokovic.

The leading American will be boosted by a 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 passage past 2023 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, which served up his maiden Top 10 win at a major.

Rewind to Australian Open 2021 and a physically hampered Djokovic was taken to five sets by Fritz.

"If I beat someone eight times in a row, I'd be pretty confident playing them, too," admitted Fritz.

"I think that I have a lot more level to bring than I've previously brought against him. Hopefully I can play another match like today."

Aryna Sabalenka Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Sabalenka and Gauff soar

Djokovic's fellow defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff have edged closer to a US Open final rematch.

World No.2 Sabalenka erased memories of a 1-4 record facing American Amanda Anisimova to blaze into the quarter-finals 6-3, 6-2. 

"I think I feel stronger than last year. So far I feel good. Hopefully I just can keep it up," stated the 25-year-old, having conceded just 11 games through her opening four rounds.

“I would say that I thought I will feel differently after winning a Grand Slam. It's no different. You still have to bring your best tennis. You still have to fight for it. It's exactly the same feelings like I had one year ago.”

The reigning champion takes a 5-1 head-to-head into her next clash over the net from Barbora Krejcikova. The Roland-Garros 2021 champion ended another Mirra Andreeva miracle run 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Over to Gauff, the No.4 seed breezed past world No.69 Magdalena Frech to seamlessly secure her finest trip Down Under to date.

Gauff's next challenge is world No.37 Marta Kostyuk, who stormed past qualifier Maria Timofeeva 6-2, 6-1.

"Definitely a lot has changed. I really feel like it was in a different lifetime. I've changed probably six times already," quipped Kostyuk, who made the third round on debut as a 15-year-old in 2018.

"I always say that I think the change is always good. That means I'm not staying in one spot. It was a hell of a journey so far already and I'm very happy I still feel fresh.

"It will be exciting (against Gauff). I have nothing to lose really. I'm in my first (Grand Slam) quarter-final. She's a Top-5 player. I just want to go out there and really play aggressive and just enjoy still having this journey."