Former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic extended his unbeaten streak to 24 consecutive wins on Friday night, when he dispatched of world No. 49 Denis Istomin to arrive at his eighth straight Australian Open fourth round contest. The win sets up an entertaining clash against Italian No. 1 Fabio Fognini, who also advanced to the final 16 with a straight sets victory over Sam Querrey. The Djokovic vs Fognini FedEX head-to-head series stands at a flawless 6-0 in favour of Djokovic, who will be looking to also extend that streak on Sunday.
It was a dominant performance from the world No. 2, until the final set, where the Serb failed to serve out the match at 5-4. He woud quickly right his mistake after snatching another break to close out the match. Djokovic hit 6 aces, 31 winners and 23 unforced errors to end the match 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 in 1 hour and 59 minutes. The victory extended his winning streak to 24, a spell he has maintained since losing the US Open final last season.
“I’ve done really well,” said Djokovic. “Denis is a very tough opponent. He’s a great quality player. He has tested a lot of top players on different surfaces because he’s very talented and he can hit the ball really well.”
Next up for Djokovic is top Italian seed Fabio Fognini, who reached the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time in his professional career, after previously only managing one main draw victory in six appearances at the event. The Italian defeated America’s Sam Querrey 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to this stage of the event. The Italian had a breakthrough season in 2013, where he finished inside the top 20 and won his first two ATP World Tour titles in consecutive weeks on the tour (Stuttgart and Hamburg). He became the first Italian to finish inside the top 20 since Corrado Barazzutti was No. 10 in 1978.
“I have a great relationship with him, a real friend relationship for more than 10 years,” said Djokovic of Fognini. “Once we get on the court, of course we’re both professionals, we want to win. He’s been playing some really good tennis. Lately he’s been performing really well on hard court. Today he beat Querrey, who is a hard-court specialist, big serve, in form, and Fabio won. I don’t take anything easy. I try to do as best as possible.”
This marks the seventh time that Fognini will meet Djokovic in a professional encounter on the tour. The Italian is yet to pick up a victory over the former world No. 1, as he is currently 0-6 against the defending champ. He will need to topple the Serb to find his way into his second ever Grand Slam quarter-final but that will not likely be the case against the in-form Djokovic, who has dominated his encounters since arriving in Melbourne. Fognini has only ever taken a set of Djokovic on two occasions and it is doubtful that he will manage a third tomorrow evening.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in Straight Sets