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Novak Djokovic

 

We're used to Novak Djokovic playing the role of joker, but on Sunday he was upstaged in that department by Italy's clown prince Fabio Fognini.

Djokovic, however, was all business in his 6-3 6-0 6-2 demolition of Fognini, who happens to be one of Djokovic's good friends on the tour.

"It's never easy [playing a friend], but I think I played a great match from the beginning to the end," said Djokovic.

"Obviously I wanted to laugh at his jokes, but in the other way I didn't want to lose any concentration and stay focused until the end."

And focused is exactly what Djokovic was for all but a couple of games in the third set. Not an easy thing to do, considering Fognini was gesticulating, ranting and even threw his racquet – not violently – at Djokovic at one point.

The second seed was on the money right from the first game, asserting himself and crushing Fognini's spirit with the pinpoint accuracy of his ground strokes and relentless pressure.

The Italian, on the other hand, was all over the place. Laconic, disinterested, enigmatic and frustrating were all hallmarks of Fognini’s play. Fognini at times appeared injured but then he'd chase down a drop shot – it was hard to predict what he would do from one rally to the next.

One thing that’s undeniable is that the 15th seed knows how to fill a highlights reel, some screaming backhands down the line along with some clever volleys the high points in a match that Fognini will want to erase from his memory fairly quickly.

Djokovic simply underlined his credentials as a title threat once again. Super clean ball-striking coupled with clever point construction were the highlights of the Serb’s game, so much so that Fognini didn't have a single break-point opportunity for the entire match, while Djokovic had 22 and converted six.

It's the 25th straight match that Djokovic has won at Melbourne Park; his overall record here now stands at 43-5 for four titles, including the past three in a row. Now into his 19th straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, Djokovic will be mightily difficult to stop in week two.

Next up he will face either eighth seed Stan Wawrinka or 17th seed Tommy Robredo. Wawrinka and Djokovic played one of the matches of the 2013 season in the fourth round at last year’s Australian Open, which Djokovic ultimately claimed 12-10 in the fifth set.

“I remember a lot of things, for example being very close to lose that match,” said Djokovic.

“Stan played incredible tennis … he's capable of winning against anybody and on any surface.”

With Sunday’s match in the bag and his on-court interview done and dusted, Djokovic returned to his familiar Djoker roots and did an impersonation of his new coach Boris Becker’s famous serve, much to the delight of the RLA crowd.

Djokovic may be more businesslike these days, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

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Post-Tournament
Saturday, 19 April 2014
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