Djokovic makes things look easy

SU­PER SERB: BIG-SERV­ING ROANIC IS THE NEXT HUR­DLE

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Melbourne

De­fend­ing cham­pion No­vak Djokovic swept past Diego Schwartz­man and into an Australian Open quar­ter­fi­nal with big-serv­ing Mi­los Raonic yes­ter­day as he ze­roes in on an eighth Melbourne Park ti­tle.

The ram­pant Ser­bian sec­ond seed was on an­other level to Schwartz­man, the 14th seed, crush­ing the Ar­gen­tine 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena to book an 11th appearance in the tour­na­ment’s last eight.

Raonic is his next hur­dle and the Cana­dian has also been in fine touch. He is yet to drop a set, blast­ing past fel­low for­mer world No 3 Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

“Mi­los is one of the tallest, strong­est play­ers on tour and has one of the big­gest serves,” said Djokovic, who is into his 46th Grand Slam quar­ter­fi­nal, sec­ond only to Roger Fed­erer’s 57.

“I’ve got to be ready for mis­siles com­ing from his side of the net. One key el­e­ment will be how well I’m re­turn­ing.”

The Serb has met 32nd seed Raonic nine times and won them all.

But the Cana­dian is back to full fit­ness af­ter years of in­jury strug­gles and his pow­er­ful serve could cause prob­lems. So far he has served 59 games and won them all.

Asked what he needs to do to beat Djokovic, he replied: “I think I’m go­ing to have to hit more than 35 aces,” re­fer­ring to the num­ber he pumped past 2018 fi­nal­ist Cilic.

“I think we play quite op­po­site from each other, and he’s done a good job in the past neu­tral­is­ing my serve,” he added of the Serb.

“So I have re­ally got to fo­cus on my things well and be the one dic­tat­ing.”

The Australian Open is Raonic’s favourite Slam.

He reached the semi­fi­nals in 2016, when he lost to Andy Mur­ray, and the quar­ters on three other oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing last year.

His ca­reer has been plagued by in­juries, with op­er­a­tions over the years for hip, foot and wrist prob­lems. He has also strug­gled with back, an­kle, calf and knee is­sues.

He said it felt “pretty damn good” to fi­nally be in­jury free.

While Djokovic had won all three of his past meet­ings against Schwartz­man, the Ar­gen­tine had caused him prob­lems pre­vi­ously and he needed to come from two sets down at Roland Gar­ros in 2017 to win.

De­spite this, the Ar­gen­tine had never beaten a top-five player in 21 clashes – AFP

Pic­ture: AFP

EASY WORK. Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic cel­e­brates af­ter beat­ing Ar­gentina’s Diego Schwartz­man in the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne yes­ter­day.

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