After surging into the quarterfinals and extending his Australian Open win streak to 25 matches, does Novak Djokovic have a major threat among the players left at the 2023 Australian Open? Here’s a look at some stats and analysis below.
Djokovic has been sporting a taped hamstring after suffering the injury in a warm up tournament before the Australian Open. He persevered to win that tournament in Adelaide. It’s the unknown factor here.
Djokovic vs. Rublev H2H
Let’s start with the immediate future: Djokovic faces Rublev in the quarterfinals. Ten years apart in age, these ATP Tour mainstays have met three times, with Novak holding a 2-1 edge. Djokovic most recently drubbed the Russian at the ATP Finals 6-4, 6-1. Rublev snuck up on Djokovic in the finals of Novak’s home tournament at the Belgrade Open by winning 6-0 in the 3rd set, but there were mitigating circumstances. Djokovic wasn’t fully mentally healed from returning to the tour after his 2022 Australian Open deportation drama. He was also not in top match shape yet and playing on a clay surface. In their first meeting, Djokovic easily handled Rublev at the 2021 ATP Finals. Analysis: These guys have similar builds, as lean 6’2” players. Djokovic does everything Rublev does, only better. Andrey has a weak 2nd serve, Novak does not. Rublev is capable of taking a set or more, but unless Djokovic is severely hampered by the hamstring, his groundstokes and certainly his net play are superior.
Djokovic vs. Ben Shelton H2H
A year ago, Shelton was #596 in the world and still in college. At the age of 20, the American has never played Djokovic. Every match victory is new territory for Shelton. He has a game style similar to his fellow American Taylor Fritz, who has challenged Djokovic at times. That said, most human beings would be taken aback by the occasion of playing one of the Big Three in Rod Laver Arena. The only problem for Novak is the unknown, but his scouting team would have the data on Shelton’s serve and return tendencies.
Djokovic vs. Tommy Paul H2H
Tommy Paul would be the other potential semifinalist for Djokovic. Even though they’ve never played formally, chances are they’ve sparred or practiced together since the American has been on tour for eight years. Paul is a gritty player with great speed and powerful groundstrokes. He might have a slight advantage in net skills, and that’s an area the American would need to exploit. Right now, Djokovic has the advantage in serve, although Paul has an excellent service game. In the past 52 weeks on all surfaces, Paul has an ATP serve rating of #46, while Djokovic stands at #6. I see a match of many service holds, but Djokovic bests the American with just a few stellar return games. Look set scores of 6-4, 7-5 and 7-6 in favor of Novak.
Djokovic vs. Korda H2H
Now for a glance at who Djokovic could meet in the 2023 Australian Open Finals. Let’s begin with a guy he just played: Cool-cat American Sebastian Korda. I like this as a potential enticing 2023 Australian Open Final. The championship of Adelaide 1 was their only meeting, and it was a good one. Novak edged Korda 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. Granted, the Djokovic hamstring injury was fresh. But the American proved he can hang with the best in the world and stay fairly unflappable. Recent Korda wins over Daniil Medvedev, Hubert Hurkacz, Jannik Sinner and Andy Murray all look impressive. From a game style standpoint, Korda is an all-court player, just like Novak. His first-serve percentage of 62 is just a tad lower than ideal. If he can’t put a high number of first serves in the box, Novak pounces on his 2nd serve and it becomes all academic. As the son of a former Australian Open champion, the pedigree is there, but it’s going to take much more than that to defeat the Australian Open GOAT.
Djokovic vs. Tsitsipas H2H
Now here’s a massive body of work. Djokovic and Tsitsipas have met twelve times with the Serb owning a 10-2 record, including the last ten. Insert wide-eyed emoji. Their closest meetings have been on clay. That’s no good for Stef because this is Novak’s best surface. Tsitsipas will need a different strategy to contend. Djokovic would look to open up the well-known wounds in the Greek’s game: A weak back-hand slice and a tendency to lean to the left after serving. For a pinpoint returner like Djokovic, that’s easy cake. Tsitsipas is an excellent volleyer. He should serve and volley early and often. It wouldn’t hurt to try. Interestingly, in a funny moment, Djokovic forgot he played Tsitsipas in the final of the 2021 French Open, where he stormed back from two sets down to beat the Greek. It’s all a blur.
Djokovic vs. Khachanov H2H
This is another potential matchup with a history of one-way traffic. Djokovic owns the head-to-head an impressive 8 to 1. The Russian hasn’t beaten him since 2018. Khachanov typically doesn’t do well against Top 10 players, and Djokovic is the most imposing of them all. The little known secret about Khachanov is that errors can bleed on the forehand side. When that shot is firing for him, there’s no answer, but it’s not consistent. Djokovic knows this from his scouting. This one would likely end in straights.
Djokovic vs. Lehecka H2H
Lehecka is 21-year-old Czech player who only turned pro in 2020. His run has been a surprise, and he’s never played Djokovic. Lehecka looks like an outstanding baseliner. Before you think he’s just the next version of Tomas Berdych, Lehecka did show a few highlight-worthy volleys in his upset over Felix Auger-Aliassime. He also solved lefty Cam Norrie in this Australian Open run. That said, he’s no match for Djokovic. He’s just not ready for this level and this occasion. Lehecka would do well to get past Tsitsipas. If he does that, then we’ll talk.