Melbourne | Rublev battles through to face Djokovic.

The highlight of day eight at Melbourne was expected to be the Djokovic encounter with the local hero De Minaur but as it turned out, the earlier clash between Rublev and Rune merited the distinction of being ‘match of the day’.

eah, was lucky. I don’t know if it was a present. Especially from 5-2 (down in the fifth), somehow I was able to win. I started to think it was over. Now I can go to the casino, for sure I’m going to win, Andrei Rublev

For much of the match, the final outcome was always in doubt but after three-hours and 38-minutes, Alexei Rublev emerged the 6-3 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6(11-9) winner following a let cord from Holger Rune on match point.

The fifth seeded Russian, having saved two match points and recovered from 5-0 down in the deciding ‘match’ tie-break, was relieved, declaring: “I never in my life was able to win matches like this,” he said. “I have no words, I’m shaking.”

It had certainly been a roller-coaster of a match with the pair swapping sets leaving the fifth to decide which one of them should progress into the last eight.

In the end it was Rublev who outlasted the teenager from Denmark despite playing poorly at various stages of the match but always finding his game to prevent an overall negative outcome.

He recovered from a 2-5 deficit in the final set, then at 5-6, 15-40 he saved two match points with an unreturned serve and winning forehand before closing the game with consecutive aces.

Then in what looked like his 19-year-old opponent was finally running off with the victory. He fell 5-0 behind and then 4-7, but somehow dragged himself back into contention as Rune became cautious when approaching the winning line.

On his second match point, Rublev clinched the victory on a dramatic dead net cord directly from his backhand return.

Afterwards, Rublev was asked by the on-court interviewer about the section of the draw he had inherited. He responded without hesitation. “No one wants to face Novak. I prefer to be in any other part of the draw, but not Novak,” he said.

“Today mentally was out of control, I was struggling a lot,” Rublev continued.

“Yeah, was lucky. I don’t know if it was a present. Especially from 5-2 (down in the fifth), somehow I was able to win. I started to think it was over.

“Now I can go to the casino, for sure I’m going to win,” he added, laughing.

He described beating Rune as “not like a roller coaster, it’s like they put a gun to your head. A roller coaster is easier.”

Rune, who is never reluctant to show his feelings during a match, admitted that the loss was hard to accept.

“This one hurts a lot,” the disappointed Rune said. “It was super close. I had my chances. He played well.”


Novak Djokovic doesn't seem to e hampered by the thigh injury

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Rublev now goes on to face Djokovic, who, by his own admission is the one player he does not want to face.

The fact that Djokovic is carrying a thigh/hamstring injury, may be in his favour but there were no signs of that hampering the former world number one, from pulling off a quick straight sets defeat over the indefatigable Aussie Alex de Minaur who was expected to give him a good workout.

It took two hours for Djokovic to swat aside his younger opponent 6-2 6-1 6-2.

After absorbing some pressure in the early stages, Djokovic stepped inside the baseline, moving fluidly to take full control, serving well and striking the ball firmly on both flanks to easily slice through De Minaur’s defences with relative ease.

The nine time Australian Open champion simply revealed the weakness of De Minaur’s armoury and the lack of firepower as he was contained to just nine winners in three sets.

“I cannot say I’m sorry that you haven’t watched a longer match,” Djokovic joked to the crowd. “I really wanted to win in straight sets.”

And when asked about the state of the injury, he described his previous matches as “rollercoasters”, with pills and hot cream just about helping him through. This time, however, there were no issues. The more he warmed into the match, the more freely he moved, the more he dominated. “I didn’t feel anything today,” he said.

The Serb, who is aiming to equal Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles, looks to be very much on course to achieve that goal.

“I don’t want to celebrate too early,” he said. “I know things can change really quickly and I don’t take anything for granted. I’m really pleased today with the way I moved today and the way I hit the ball.”


Ben Shelton had nevertravelled out of the US before arriving in Melbourne

Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

In the bottom quarter of the draw, it is an All-American affair.

College student Ben Shelton, who had never been out of the US and playing in his first grand slam, continued his sensational run to set up a quarter-final with compatriot Tommy Paul.

The 20-year-old twice came from a set down to beat another compatriot, JJ Wolf, in 6-7(5) 6-2 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-2.

“It’s definitely a surprise,” Shelton said. “Never being out of the United States, I knew it would be a struggle. So I think it maybe has helped me a little bit, not having that expectation or the feeling that I have to perform, but being able to just go out there, be myself and play free.”

Paul had an easier match but still dropped a set to the veteran Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut whom he eventually defeated 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-5.


Tommy Paul upset the Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images


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