MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic struck back for the old guard at the Australian Open early on Tuesday, soaking up the pressure from an impressive Daniil Medvedev before crushing the young Russian 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 to reach his 10th quarter-final at Melbourne Park.
The night after Roger Federer was stunned by Greek tyro Stefanos Tsitsipas, there was another sniff of an upset at Rod Laver Arena as 22-year-old Medvedev rocked the Serb with a furious assault of power hitting.
Yet the Russian wearied in the constant attrition during Monday’s fourth round match, and top seed Djokovic ended up cruising to victory soon after midnight, having passed easily his biggest test at what had been a sweat-free tournament.
The world number one did not emerge entirely unscathed, however, and was troubled by a back strain in the last set.
“I didn’t feel so great in the last 20 minutes of the match, so we’ll see tomorrow how the body reacts,” he told reporters.
“It was just a little bit of fatigue, a little bit of back, nothing major ... But there are a couple of things that have surfaced.”
Djokovic will continue his bid for a hat-trick of successive Grand Slam triumphs and a record seventh title at Melbourne Park against eighth seed Kei Nishikori, who squeezed past Pablo Carreno Busta in a five-set epic.
“Since I guess my next opponent is watching, I’m feeling fantastic, never felt better in my life,” 31-year-old Djokovic joked in his on-court interview with Jim Courier.
“I was hoping you were going to say the other guy won, but well done, Kei.”
Federer’s exit on Sunday has been widely touted as a changing of the guard and Tsitsipas’s victory an inspiration for the Tour’s upstarts.
Fifteenth seed Medvedev was certainly up to continue the theme and it took a lunging backhand drop-shot from Djokovic to save a break point in the fifth game.
The rangy Russian fought back from a break down but double-faulted to give up a set point and Djokovic sealed it with a forehand winner down the line.
A red-faced Medvedev trudged to his seat to munch darkly on a banana but did not spend too long chewing on the setback.
He bravely fought off five break points in the second game of the second set and broke back to 4-3 after a breathtaking rally, scrambling back and forth to retrieve drop-shots and lobs before passing the Serb.
It was Djokovic’s turn to fume, and he wound up to smash his racket into the court before stopping himself.
There was no shaking the Russian, who edged an epic 42-shot rally and raced to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak.
The Serb was rattled, and he bungled a drop-shot to give Medvedev two set points before finding the net to square the high-quality contest.
Djokovic needed cheap points but there were none on offer, and he took a tumble at the net on serve at 2-1, drawing a gasp from the crowd.
But after dusting himself off and saving three break points from 0-40 down, the Serb was revived.
After taking Medvedev down in another marathon rally, Djokovic broke in the fifth game and the Russian suddenly appeared spent.
Nothing fires Djokovic like the smell of blood, and he went after Medvedev mercilessly, roaring through the set and breaking again to lead the final stanza 3-1.
Though dragging his feet between points, Medvedev snuck a break point at 3-2 but saw it disappear with a searing Djokovic forehand.
From there, the Serb kept him at arm’s length before closing out the match with a string of clean winners.
Editing by Ian Chadband