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Preview: Novak Djokovic vs. Taylor Fritz - prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Australian Open quarter-final between Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

Competing in a record-equalling 58th Grand Slam quarter-final, Novak Djokovic squares up to a familiar foe in the shape of Taylor Fritz at the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.

The Serbian barely broke a sweat in a three-set mauling of Adrian Mannarino in the last 16, while Fritz triumphed in four against Stefanos Tsitsipas during his fourth-round battle.

Match preview

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his fourth round match against France's Adrian Mannarino on January 21, 2024© Reuters

With the illness fought off and the wrist seemingly no longer plaguing him, defending Australian Open champion Djokovic has steamrolled his way through his last two Melbourne encounters, having been forced to survive scares against Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin in his opening two matches.

After picking up a belated straight-sets win over Tomas Martin Etcheverry, the 36-year-old met a man just one year his junior in French 20th seed Mannarino, who kept his mistakes to a minimum and did everything in his power to quell the Djokovic juggernaut, but it was no use.

With only one hour and 44 minutes on the board, Djokovic ran out a 6-0 6-0 6-3 victory by virtue of one of his finest Grand Slam performances in recent memory, winning 13 games on the bounce before Mannarino finally held at the 14th attempt, allowing the beleaguered Frenchman to take in the crowd's adulation.

Mannarino's joy soon faded as Djokovic broke for the seventh time in the contest before taking his first match point to close out a phenomenal display, in which he flaunted his prowess in lengthy baseline rallies and struck an impressive 17 aces, albeit while double-faulting on five occasions too.

Since falling at round four in the 2020 US Open, Djokovic has reached the last eight in each of his most recent 11 Grand Slam appearances - only losing one of those battles at the 2022 French Open - and the 36-year-old will soon have 58 major quarter-final appearances to his name, a feat only shared by Roger Federer.

Taylor Fritz reacts at the Australian Open on January 21, 2024© Reuters

Revenge was on Fritz's mind when the American 12th seed clashed racquets with Greece's poster boy Tsitsipas, who had sent the 26-year-old packing in the fourth round of the 2022 Australian Open, and the John Cain Arena crowd were treated to a thrilling battle of the big backhands in their fifth ATP Tour showdown.

Never before had Fritz beaten a top-10 player at a major event - losing 11 such encounters before his clash with Tsitsipas - but the American exorcised those demons to succeed 7-6[3] 5-7 6-3 6-3 in just over three hours, thereby making it back-to-back quarter-final Grand Slam appearances.

The world number 12 - who lost in the last eight at the 2023 US Open and Wimbledon two years ago - dominated Tsitsipas on serve and blasted 49 winners past the Greek to set up a tie with Djokovic, while also displaying exceptional accuracy to commit just 19 unforced errors.

Trusting in his shot selection was key for Fritz to reach his first-ever Australian Open quarter-final, and the American will surely have to continue adopting such a brave approach if he is to have a fighting chance against Djokovic, whom he shares something in common with at the current Melbourne tournament.

Indeed, both men boast bagels against French opponents at the 2024 Australian Open - Fritz posted a 6-0 against Hugo Gaston either side of challenging contests with Facundo Diaz Acosta and Fabian Marozsan - and either Jannik Sinner or Andrey Rublev will endeavour to deny the victor a place in the championship match.

Tournament so far

Novak Djokovic:

First round: vs. Dino Prizmic 6-2 6-7[5] 6-3 6-4
Second round: vs. Alexei Popyrin 6-3 4-6 7-6[4] 6-3
Third round: vs. Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-3 6-3 7-6[2]
Round of 16: vs. Adrian Mannarino 6-0 6-0 6-3

Taylor Fritz:

First round: vs. Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-4
Second round: vs. Hugo Gaston 6-0 6-3 6-1
Third round: vs. Fabian Marozsan 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2
Round of 16: vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6[3] 5-7 6-3 6-3

Head To Head

US Open (2023) - Quarter-final: Djokovic wins 6-1 6-4 6-4
Cincinnati Open (2023) - Quarter-final: Djokovic wins 6-0 6-4
ATP Finals (2022) - Semi-final: Djokovic wins 7-6[5] 7-6[6]
Paris Masters (2021) - Quarter-final: Djokovic wins 6-4 6-3
Italian Open (2021) - Second round: Djokovic wins 6-3 7-6[5]
Australian Open (2021) - Third round: Djokovic wins 7-6[1] 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2
Madrid Open (2019) - Second round: Djokovic wins 6-4 6-2
Monte-Carlo Masters (2019) - Quarter-final: Djokovic wins 6-3 6-0

Fritz fans ought to block out any mention of the American's head-to-head record against Djokovic, who has got the better of the 26-year-old in each of their eight meetings to date, prevailing in straight sets in seven of them.

Appropriately, the only time Djokovic has failed to overcome Fritz in straight sets came at the 2021 Australian Open, where the American came close to completing a mammoth comeback from two sets down only to lose in five, and he has been taught a ball-striking lesson in their six subsequent meetings.

Tuesday's tie will also mark a second-straight Grand Slam quarter-final between Djokovic and Fritz, who was eliminated by the 24-time major winner at this point in the 2023 US Open, and Djokovic is also four-for-four in tie-breakers against one of his favourite opponents.

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We say: Djokovic to win in four sets

Djokovic's exemplary defence has won out over Fritz's aggressive style of play ever since the pair first locked horns in 2019, and after a slightly sticky start to his latest Melbourne campaign, the 36-year-old has reverted to type and is looking unstoppable once again.

Fritz's thunderous backhand should give the American a fighting chance of avoiding yet another straight-sets loss, but he would surely only be delaying the inevitable, as Djokovic maintains his 100% record over the 12th seed to reach Australian Open semi-final number 11.

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Novak Djokovic reacts at the Australian Open on January 14, 2024
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