Tennis: Defending champions Novak Djokovic, Aryna Sabalenka reach final eight in contrasting fashions at Melbourne

Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka continue the defence of their Australian Open titles at the quarter-final stage, and while the Serbian is coming into form at just the right time, Sabalenka has destroyed all before her.

Sabalenka, 25, has been in sensational form, dismissing opponents with apparent ease, and as she looks at the draw, she knows, if she can reach the final again, she will be the overwhelming favourite to retain her title.

World No.1 Iga Swiatek is gone, as is last year's beaten finalist Elena Rybakina, but Sabalenka has enough experience to not look beyond her clash with Barbora Krejcikova, and has been focussed and clinical in getting here.

Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka in action at Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka in action at Melbourne. Photo credit: Getty Images

Krejcikova has been taken to three sets in three of her four matches, while Sabalenka has barely broken a sweat.

The No.2 seed has lost just 11 games in the previous four rounds, while Krejcikova lost 11 in her last match and the Czech ninth seed has been on the court over twice as long as Sabalenka.

Last year, Sabalenka dropped her first set in the final and, ominously, is looking even stronger this year.

"I think I feel stronger than last year," said Sabalenka, easing past Amanda Anisimova in the fourth round.

"So far, I feel good. Hopefully, I just can keep it up."

It's hard to see Krejcikova stopping Sabalenka, as she steamrolls her way to a place in the final, and she has won just one of their six previous meetings.

Djokovic is peaking at just the right time, as he now faces American Taylor Fritz, and after labouring to victory in the earlier rounds, the fourth round saw him dismantle Adrian Mannarino, 6-0 6-0 6-3.

"The last two matches have been much better than the first two," said Djokovic. "It's not the first time that I have this kind of particular circumstances, where I start off slower and then I build as the tournament goes on."

Not good news for Fritz, as the 12th seed comes up against a player he has never beaten in their eight previous meetings, and the American can't blame his opponent's optimism.

"I mean, if I beat someone eight times in a row, I'd be pretty confident playing them, too, I'd have to say," he said. "I think that I have a lot more level to bring than I've previously brought against him."

Djokovic struggled with a wrist injury earlier this month, but he looks to have put that behind him, and it's hard to see him being stopped in his 58th Grand Slam quarter-final, as he goes after his 11th Australian Open title.

Fourth seed Jannik Sinner faces fifth seed Andrey Rublev, where the winner will face Djokovic in the semi-final, if he gets past Fritz.

In the women's quarter-final, American fourth seed Coco Gauff and unseeded Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk do battle for a semi-final place against either Sabalenka or Krejcikova.