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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, October 6, 2022

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic drilled Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 for his sixth straight win and an Astana quarterfinal meeting vs. Karen Khachanov.

Photo credit: Getty

Absence makes the heart grow fonder—and ignites Novak Djokovic's competitive fire to burn a bit fiercer.

Playing definitive first-strike tennis, Djokovic blazed by Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 advancing to his seventh straight quarterfinal of the season at the Astana Open.

Watch: Moutet and Andreev Nearly Come to Blows

It was Djokovic's sixth consecutive straight-sets win.

Fresh off his run to his 89th career title in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Djokovic is playing with the command fully committed to collecting title No. 90 this weekend.

The fourth-seeded Serbian has unleashed declarative serving throughout his winning streak. Djokovic served 78 percent with 5 aces and no double faults and denied both break points he faced in a convincing 71-minute victory.

"We both played very confidently throughout the match," Djokovic told the media afterward. "In the first set, both showed high-level tennis. We know it's a very slow court, so the condition isn't as pleasant for a good serve. But I was great at choosing the position and trajectory to enter the first ball. He started the second set better: he served better, as he moved.

"It made me work harder. I knew that if I gave the opponent time, he, as a very good player, would be able to take advantage of it. We played for the first time and I needed a little time to learn his style of play and show confident tennis."

The 2022 season marks the first time in Djokovic's 18-year Grand Slam career he's missed two majors in a single season.

The seven-time Wimbledon winner has exuded energy and urgency in his recent return.

Tennis Express

Driving the ball past an in-form Djokovic is about as easy as leaping the chair umpire's seat. Van de Zandschulp showed fine defensive skills of his own, scrambling up to a drop shot then recovering in mid-air for a leaping volley winner. That bit of improvised magic helped Van de Zandschulp, who made 10 of his first 11 first-serves, hold at love to level after four games.

The fourth-seeded Djokovic made his move in the sixth game, gaining triple break point. Van de Zandschulp saved the first, but decelerated on a second serve shoveling his first double fault into net. That miscue gave Djokovic the break and a 4-2 lead after 25 minutes.

In a beautifully-built point, Djokovic unloaded nearly the entire shot spectrum on his scrambling opponent before spinning a backhand down the line and raising a clenched fist with a 30-love lead in hand. Djokovic ran down a volley and flicked back a defensive return, but van de Zanschulp was waiting at net deadening a backhand volley for break point. An assertive Djokovic hit behind his opponent to deny break point. A flurry of forehands helped Djokovic hold for 5-2.

A dynamic Djokovic sealed the opening set at love with a slick forehand swing volley. Djokovic served 84 percent in the 39-minute opener.

A front-running Djokovic has been a danger to opponents posting a 23-1 record in 2022 when winning the opening set. He quickly stretched his second-set lead today.

Reading his opponent's wide serve, Djokovic banged a backhand return back down the middle drawing an error to break for a 2-1 second-set lead.

Djokovic drilled his fifth ace down the middle for 5-1 and finished the win firing a forehand down the line.

The seventh-ranked Serbian will face Karen Khachanov for a spot in the final four.

Khachanov saved 12 of 15 break points rallying past 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours, 24 minutes.

Former world No. 1 Djokovic has won six of seven meetings vs. Khachanov, but remembers the one that got away when the Russian was a 7-5, 6-4 winner in the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters final.

"The next opponent is Karen Khachanov. I played with him several times on different surfaces and all our matches were in a struggle," Djokovic said. "I know him well, he plays well indoors. It is worth noting that he beat me in 2018 in the final of the Masters in Paris indoors - the same as now in Astana.

"Given all these nuances, tomorrow I will try to prepare well and play as best as possible."

Second seeded Daniil Medvedev won 22 of 27 first-serve points powering past Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3, 6-2 in 74 minutes.

Australian Open finalist Medvedev will meet Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinals.

The winner of the Bautista Agut-Medvedev match will play either Djokovic or Khachanov in Saturday's semifinals.

No. 7-seeded Hubert Hurkacz hit seven aces carving out a 6-4, 6-4 sweep of home hero Alexander Bublik. Next up for former Miami Open champion Hurkacz is a quarterfinal against third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas.


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