Andrey Rublev has never been further than the last eight at any Grand Slam.© AFP
Fifth seed Andrey Rublev surged into a last-16 clash with Holger Rune at the Australian Open Saturday and thanked opponent Dan Evans for giving him extra energy by donating a banana mid-match. The Russian crushed the Briton 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena to make the tournament fourth round for a third time. He will face Danish teenager Rune for a place in the quarter-finals after the ninth seed survived a nasty fall before recovering to sweep past unseeded Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).
Despite being world number six Rublev, who has won 13 ATP titles, has never been further than the last eight at any Grand Slam.
He moved a step closer by defeating his friend and 25th seed Evans, who threw a banana to him at a changeover when he ran out.
“I didn’t ask him, I asked the ball boy, but Danny asked for bananas earlier and he had two so he just said ‘take it’, and I caught it,” he said.
“He helped me with some energy, for sure. I have extra for sure because I eat banana,” he joked.
Rublev, who was defeated twice in warm-up events ahead of the tournament, said he was growing in confidence as the Grand Slam progressed.
“Every match I’m playing better and better and I’m really happy because at the beginning of the season I lost to a couple of players,” he said.
“I lost a bit of confidence, but since the first match (in Melbourne) I’ve been playing really good tennis.”
He next meets the dangerous Rune, who shocked Novak Djokovic to clinch his first Masters title in Paris late last year to cap a breakthrough season.
The 19-year-old demolished Humbert despite twisting his ankle as he stretched for a shot early in the match, and breaking the fall with his right wrist which also needed treatment.
“Of course it was painful, but I tried to focus on something else,” he said.
“I’m playing on such an amazing stage in the third round of a Grand Slam so I didn’t think about it and I just kept going.
“It was extremely tough, especially after the fall, but I played better than expected, maybe because I relaxed a lot.
“I feel every confident, I really like the conditions here and the support is amazing,” he added.
Sabalenka-Bencic Melbourne Showdown
Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka marched into the last 16 of the Australian Open in straight sets on Saturday to tee up a showdown with Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.
The Belarusian swept past 32nd-ranked Belgian Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena to burgeon her growing status as a favourite for the first Grand Slam of the year.
Sabalenka needed just 74 minutes to beat her former doubles partner — the pair won five titles together including the Australian Open in 2021 — but said it hadn’t been as easy as it looked.
“It’s really tough to play against her, especially. She’s a great player, unbelievable fighter,” said the powerful Sabalenka, who is yet to win a major.
“I knew it’s going to be tough. I’m super happy that I was able to stay focused from beginning to the end to win this match because she’s an amazing player.”
Bencic, of Switzerland, was just as assured in her 6-2, 7-5 victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi on Rod Laver Arena.
Sabalenka and Bencic are both on a roll this year in Australia.
They each won titles in Adelaide earlier this month, both are yet to drop a set in Melbourne and both are now on seven-match unbeaten runs.
Something will have to give when they clash on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
“Sabalenka is a very aggressive player, has a lot of power,” said Bencic, who is aiming to become only the second Swiss woman to win the Australian Open after Martina Hingis, the 1997, 1998 and 1999 champion.
Bencic, who last week returned to the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2021, has Sabalenka’s former coach Dmitry Tursunov in her corner for the fourth-round encounter.
“Dmitry was her coach before, so he can help me a lot. I hope so,” said Bencic.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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