Djokovic advances, Osaka, Williams win thrillers; Thiem crashes out

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Sydney (dpa) – Title holder Novak Djokovic showed little sign of injury as he advanced into the Australian Open quarter-finals with his 300th win at the majors while last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem crashed out.

World number one Djokovic stopped Canadian 14th seed Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the early minutes of Monday to remain on course for a ninth title at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic struggled with an abdominal injury in his five-set win over Taylor Fritz and did not train Saturday.

“Any other tournament than a Grand Slam I would retire or withdraw,” he said after Sunday’s game.

“I didn’t know until I finished my warm-up three hours before whether I would play or not … When I warmed up it was fine. During the match it was on and off, not ideal but I cannot complain, I won the match against a great player.”

Third seed and US Open holder Thiem was meanwhile ousted by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.

On the women’s side Naomi Osaka saved two match points to defeat Garbine Muguruza and Serena Williams also needed three sets to defeat Arnya Sabalenka to reach the last eight in Melbourne a 13th time.

Djokovic had said Friday he wasn’t sure whether he could continue but took to the court with a tape on the side of his upper body.

He clinched the first set in a tiebreak where he raced off to 3-0 and never looked back. Big-serving Raonic had his right ankle taped early in the second set and got the first break of the match in the fifth game with a forehand winner en route to squaring the sets.

But Djokovic raced through the third and got the deciding break for 5-4 in the fourth when Raonic netted a backhand. Djokovic served out the match in the next game when Raonic hit a return wide.

“There was no preparation for this match, I used every single hour I had to recover and try to put myself in a position where I have a possibility to compete,” Djokovic said. “I am kind of taking each day at a time.”

He next plays Alexander Zverev of Germany, a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 winner against Serbian Dusan Lajovic. Zverev failed to serve out the second set at 6-5 but regrouped in the tiebreak and was in command in the third set.

Thiem meanwhile ran out of steam against Dimitrov, admitting to physical problems following his five-set win over Nick Kyrgios in the previous round.

“I’m not a machine. I mean, sometimes I would like to be, but there are really, really bad days,” the Austrian said.

Dimitrov now faces Russian Aslan Karatsev whose fairytale in his first career grand slam continued with a five-set win over 20th-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

Osaka meanwhile saved two match points to defeat fellow former world number one Muguruza 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 at an empty Rod Laver Arena.

Muguruza, the 2020 Australian Open runner up and a two-time slam champion, failed to convert two match points late in the third and then could not serve out the match on 5-4, allowing the third seed to come back from 5-3 and 40-15 down.

Osaka went on to win four straight games and on first match point booked a spot in the last eight for second time after 2019 when she went on to lift the trophy.

“In the stressful points, I feel like I just had to go within myself and I know that I probably hit a lot of unforced errors but it was something I needed to do,” Osaka said.

“I couldn’t really give her any short balls because she would finish it.”

Osaka faces unseeded Su-Wei Hsieh, who defeated 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 6-2 at the next door Margaret Court Arena.

Hsieh, who four days earlier claimed the scalp of eighth seed and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, has become the oldest player to make her grand slam quarter-final debut in the Open Era at 35.

Williams defeated seventh seed Sabalenka 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to continue her chase for a record-equalling 24th grand slam win. Williams said her early career clashes with former number one Lindsay Davenport had prepared her for anything hard-hitting Sabalenka threw at her.

“I don’t know anyone that hit harder than Lindsay – she was the most power player I think I’ve ever played,” Williams said. 

“It was definitely a lot of power … but I’m used to it. I was OK with it really; If she wants to play power, let’s go.”

Williams now meets second seed Simona Halep who rallied to win a duel of grand slam champions 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 over Poland’s Iga Swiatek.

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