It sounds strange to say, given the vicissitudes of last year, with a week’s imprisonment and the country’s expulsion, but Novak Djokovic is at home in Australia. Better: he is at home at the Rod Laver Arena, where he won his first Grand Slam in 2008 and has already collected nine cups. And it shows: after demolishing Alex De Minaur in three sets, he also swept away Andrey Rublev, the number 6 in the world (6-1 6-2 6-4) with the same rate.
Djokovic has thus equaled the record of Monica Seles and Andre Agassi – 26 consecutive victories at the Australian Open – and semifinalist awaits him in the next round (a bit by chance) Tommy Paul, current number 35 in the world, the first American to arrive so far in Australia since 2009 (at the time it was Roddick), who won the US derby in four sets with the very young Ben Shelton.
Paul and Djokovic have never met, but if it weren’t (a little) for Tsitsipas, who will play the other semifinal with the Russian Khachanov, one would feel like already assigning the Tenth to Nole for ‘manifest superiority’. Overall, it would be the 22nd Grand Slam, which would bring him on a par with Rafa Nadal while the hoard of points would put him back at the top of the world rankings. Even Tsitsipas can do it, if neither Stefanos nor Djokovic win, Carlos Alcaraz will remain at the top.
Ruthless on the pitch, Djoker, gallant off the pitch: after the match he offered a bouquet of flowers to Barbara Schett, a former tennis player who is now a Eurosport commentator. Asked for an opinion from Federer, who is all the rage on social media with his appearances at Paris Fashion Week and on the snow at home. «Maybe in a few years we’ll compete on skis, Novak threw in, who was born in the mountains and has more than experienced skiers in his family. With Nadal in dry dock, he doesn’t seem to have equal opponents on the tennis court.
In the women’s category, the surprise is Magda Linette, the Pole who didn’t expect anyone. She took the place of number 1 Iga Swiatek, and beating the Czech Pliskova 6-3 7-5 at the age of 30 for the first time facing a Grand Slam semifinal. Three years ago she seemed to be at sunset, after a series of personal and physical problems she changed her whole team and since 2021 she has started going back up again. She will face Aryna Sabalenka, the Belarusian Valkyrie number 5 in the world, former Miss Double Fault (her definition is hers…), who has already played three semifinals, two at the US Open and one at Wimbledon. In the other semifinal they will meet an old acquaintance like Vika Azarenka, 33, also Belarusian but transplanted to the States for a long time, who won two consecutive Australian Opens in 2012 and 2013. She will have to contend with the Russian, but Kazakh of passport, Elena Rybakina, reigning Wimbledon champion. A Grand Slam dominated by Eastern European players. «An all-Belarusian final? I’ll do everything I can to get him home,” says Sabalenka. “It would be very important for our country, it would help young people understand that they can become someone with sport”.
Men, quarterfinals: Djokovic-Rublev 6-1 6-2 6-4, Paul-Shelton 7-6 6-3 5-7 6-4.
Women, quarterfinals: Linette-Pliskova 6-3 7-5, Sabalenka-Vekic 6-3 6-2.
Tomorrow’s program (not before 9.30 in Italy, TV on Eurosport): Rybakina-Azarenka, Linette-Sabalenka.