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Armed with Allies, de Minaur Takes Aim at Djokovic

By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, January 21, 2023

Alex de Minaur will turn to crowd sourcing in his debut duel against Novak Djokovic.

The last Aussie still standing in Melbourne, de Minaur beat Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(0), 6-2, 6-1 to reach the Australian Open fourth round for the second straight year.

More: Unusual Suspects in Oz

The feisty de Minaur will try to do the near impossible—defeat iconic champions Rafael Nadal and Djokovic in the same month—when the pair square off for the first time with a quarterfinal spot on the line.

The 22nd-seeded de Minaur, who knocked off Nadal in United Cup play earlier this month, will walk on Rod Laver Arena armed with allies: rabid Aussie fans hungry to see their Davis Cup hero pull off an upset.

De Minaur's game-plan is simple: Turn this match into a grind to test the 35-year-old Serbian's cranky hamstring and ride the adrenaline Aussie fans can deliver with their energizing support.

"Look, it's no secret that I love playing here in my backyard. I think the Aussie crowd is amazing," de Minaur said "They've had my back from day dot. So I'll always cherish that...

"I think the ultimate goal is that no matter where I'm playing, whether it's Court 27 at some random place, that I'm going to be equally as tough to beat than on center court here.

"Now, I think the difference is that the opponents not only have to play against me but they've got to play against me and the whole crowd. Right? That's probably the difference."

The Djoker vs. The Demon sounds like some sort of Wrestlemania Showdown. In reality, court coverage could be key between two of the best movers in the game. The question is can the slender Aussie handle Djokovic's heavier shots and his skill playing all-court tennis at the event where he's dominated?

Djokovic rides a 24-match AO winning streak and a 36-match winning streak on Australian soil into the fourth round.

Hunting for a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam crown, Djokovic has received a rousing reception from fans (with the exception of his verbal sparring with inebriated Where's Waldo crew), but knows he may well face a green-and-gold wall of sound against the speedy de Minaur.

"I try to bring it every single place I step out on court," de Minaur said. "You know, the goal is to go deep everywhere I go. I mean, that's the ultimate goal.

"You know, I am sure that I'm going to achieve it. It's taken time, but I'm feeling very good about myself, happy with where the level is at, where I'm progressing, and ultimately I'm going to keep on improving and achieving that goal."

Photo credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images