“I’ve played the best game this year so far,” said the Serb, still on court. “When my head is free, this is what happens,” he added.
In the quarterfinals, he will face Rublev who, even before meeting his opponent, recognized that “nobody wants to face Novak.”
With cold blood and a point of fortune, the Russian number six in the world prevailed in five sets (6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 [11/9]) to young Danish talent Holger Rune, who blew two match points and a 5-0 lead in the final tiebreaker.
To top it off, as in a nod to the movie Match Point from Woody Allen, the game was decided with a backhand rest from Rublev who, after hitting the net, died in the field of a Rune who did not believe.
“It’s probably the luckiest moment of my life. Now I can go to the casino. If I bet, I’ll win for sure,” said a relieved Rublev, who had come back from 5-2 down in the final set.
The 19-year-old Dane had yet to drop a set in Melbourne, but his wrist trembled in a match that ended with 60 unforced errors and 12 double faults. “This one hurts a lot. It was very close, I had my options” but “luck was on his side,” he said.
The other quarterfinal matchup in this part of the draw will be 100% American between the young Ben Shelton, the first rookie to reach this round in 20 years, and Tommy Paul, who defeated the last Spaniard in the draw, Roberto Bautista.
Seeking his second quarters in Australia after defeating the heroic Scotsman Andy Murray, Bautista was nullified against a Paul who, with direct aces, winning forehands and quick legs that reached numerous blows, ended up prevailing 6-2, 4-6, 6 -2, 7-5.