At the Australian Open, something incredible has to happen for Novak Djokovic's no-fuss win over Alex de Minaur to become an also-ran, but that's where we are today.
For the first time since 2000, three American men have made the Aussie Open quarterfinals, and they're all first-timers. Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul, both unseeded, punched their tickets to the final eight on Monday, while Sebastian Korda advanced on Sunday (more on his win here).
Shelton, Paul storm into quarterfinals
Shelton, just 20 and using his passport for the very first time, is playing in only his second Grand Slam. His part of the draw opened up wide when No. 8 Taylor Fritz was eliminated in the second round, and he's been able to ride the wave. He's looked boyishly excited on the court, and has credited his creativity for helping him get this far. On Monday, Shelton beat fellow American J.J. Wolf 6(5)-7, 6-2, 6(4)-7, 7-6(4), 6-2 in a ridiculous five-setter that included three separate tiebreaks.
Paul, already a fixture on the tour at 25, is another American who is working on a major breakthrough. Unlike Shelton, Paul has faced several seeded opponents on his way to the quarterfinals. On Monday, he faced No. 24 Roberto Bautista Agut and won 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Paul has never made a Grand Slam quarterfinal, and his best finish at the Aussie Open was a third-round exit in 2020.
As mentioned earlier, No. 4 Djokovic easily defeated No. 24 de Minaur 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and is on to his 13th Australian Open quarterfinal and his 54th Grand Slam quarterfinal overall. He's been dealing with a balky hamstring, but has looked strong and sure and seems destined to make at least the semifinals, if not the finals.
It's hard to call any match win an "upset" at this stage, but when an unseeded player beats the No. 4 seeded woman to advance to the quarterfinals, that's an upset. That's what happened on Monday when 30-year-old Magda Linette defeated No. 4 Caroline Garcia 7-6(3), 6-4 to make her first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal.
No. 5 Andrey Rublev and No. 9 Holger Rune staged a thrilling five-set battle for the right to play in the quarterfinals. In the end, after three hours and 37 minutes, Rublev emerged victorious, beating Rune 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6). Rublev came back from 0-5 down in the tiebreaker to close out the match.
No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka continues to dominate. She beat No. 12 Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2 in under 90 minutes and looked strong and confident. With Iga Swiatek out of the tournament, Sabalenka — with her intense power and increasing composure — is the dark horse to win it all.
Karolina Pliskova, seeded 30th, defeated No. 23 Shuai Zhang 6-0, 6-4 in under an hour.
In the battle of the unseeded women, Donna Vekic beat Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
Highlight of the day
Shingo Kunieda, who at 38 is the most successful wheelchair tennis player in the history of the sport, announced his retirement on Saturday. He inspired so many other wheelchair users to pick up tennis, and his impact on the sport was clear in this lovely video the Australian Open Twitter account published on Monday.
Inspiring the next generation of wheelchair tennis players. @shingokunieda, what a career, what a legacy 🇯🇵 🎾#AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/R8whepl1yY— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2023
More highlights of the day
Making the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam is a big deal. Let's see some reactions!
As any 20-year-old would, Ben Shelton flexed his biceps when he celebrated his win.
"@BenShelton's time is right now!"— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2023
He'd never been outside of the United States, now he's a Grand Slam quarterfinalist!
The 20-year-old sees off countryman JJ Wolf 6-7(5) 6-2 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-2
Sport, eh... how good is it.#AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/7CKAQeBApv
Novak Djokovic has been to the Aussie Open quarterfinals so many times he barely celebrates anymore.
✅ 13th #AusOpen quarterfinal— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2023
✅ 54th Grand Slam quarterfinal
Novak Djokovic doing Novak Djokovic things at Melbourne Park!@DjokerNole • @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/ALmZZjxwal
The look on Magda Linette's face when she beat Caroline Garcia was absolute gold.
When you beat the No.16, No.19 and No.4 seeds on your way to a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal 🙌@MagdaLinette • @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/xBtdR3dphu— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2023
This isn't exactly the way Tommy Paul wanted to advance to the quarterfinals, but he celebrated anyway.
Your moment, @TommyPaul1 🌟@wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/iLsSUCcID9— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2023
What to watch on Day 9
We've made it to the quarterfinals! With just eight matches over the next two days, things have slowed down considerably from a week ago. Here are Tuesday's four quarterfinal battles, which include two Americans: Jessica Pegula and Sebastian Korda.
No. 22 Elena Rybakina vs. No. 17 Jelena Ostapenko
No. 18 Karen Khachanov vs. No. 29 Sebastian Korda
No. 3 Jessica Pegula vs. No. 24 Victoria Azarenka
No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Jiri Lehecka