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Ricky’s picks for Day 10 of the Australian Open: Djokovic vs. Rublev

Novak Djokovic did not look like his normally dominant self during the first week of the Australian Open.

Now that we are into week two, it’s clear that Djokovic means business.

The nine-time champion at Melbourne Park picked up the pace in a major way to destroy Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 during fourth-round action on Monday night. It was something entirely different from the level that had been on display in previous victories over Roberto Carballes Baena, Enzo Couacaud, and Grigor Dimitrov.

And it’s bad news for Andrey Rublev, for whom the fourth round was a much different story. The world No. 6 outlasted Holger Rune 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(11-9) after trailing 5-2 in the fifth, saving two match points at 5-6, and falling behind 5-0 in the super-tiebreaker. After squandering two match points of his own at 9-7 and 9-8, Rublev converted his third chance at 10-9 with a winning backhand return off the net cord.

“I never in my life was able to win matches like this,” Rublev said in a not entirely accurate statement–although it is true that he has endured plenty of Grand Slam heartbreaks. “This is the first ever time that I won something like this, especially in a very special tournament, the Australian Open, to be in the quarterfinals. So it’s something I will remember for sure all my life. I have no words; I am shaking and happy.” 

“When I hit [the last return] in the beginning, I saw how the ball clearly hit the net and was on my side. Sometimes it can be a bit higher, and then maybe (it goes over). But that ball was exactly on my side and I don’t know how (it) went over.”

Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, the margins almost certainly won’t be so small on Wednesday. Djokovic is back to being dominant, he has won 21 major titles whereas Rublev has never even been to a semifinal, and the underdog is coming off a mentally and physically taxing five-setter. In two previous hard-court encounters, Djokovic rolled in straight sets both times (6-3, 6-2 at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals and 6-4, 6-1 at the same tournament this past fall).

All signs point to another beatdown in the Serb’s favor.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.