Sport Zverev embraces challenge of Djokovic
Tennis-Djokovic dynasty under threat at Australian Open
Tennis-Djokovic dynasty under threat at Australian OpenMELBOURNE (Reuters) - No man has dominated the Australian Open like Novak Djokovic but the steely Serb's reign over the blue hardcourts of Melbourne Park may be set for its biggest challenge in years when the tournament gets underway next week.
Alexander Zverev is embracing tennis's version of Mission Impossible - taking down Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.
After a surprisingly tricky round-one clash with American Marcos Giron, the towering German has hit his stride with three successive straight-sets victories, most recently against Serb Dusan Lajovic.
Now to the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
And the really tricky part, even if world No.1 Djokovic is battling a mysterious abdominal injury.
Since winning the first of his record eight Australian Open crowns way back in 2008, the Serb has compiled an extraordinary 72-5 win-loss record at Melbourne Park.
Kyrgios' ice-cold takedown after Novak sledge
Nick Kyrgios has fired back at Novak Djokovic after the World No.1 declared he doesn't have respect for the Aussie. On the eve of the Grand Slam, Djokovic reignited his feud with Kyrgios when he explained to reporters that "off the court, I don't have much respect for him."That came after Kyrgios called the Serb a "tool" for sending a list of requests to Tennis Australia for players in quarantine, in what was just the latest chapter in the long-running war of words between the pair.
But if Zverev was looking for any statistical support, three of those five losses did come at the quarter-final stage to Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Roddick.
"You've got to play your best tennis, especially here - this is his favourite court, this is his favourite tournament," said Zverev, whose career-best showing at Melbourne Park came last year when he bowed out in the semis to Dominic Thiem.
"To be able to have a chance against him, you have to be playing extremely well.
"You have to be playing aggressive tennis, being the one that dominates.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge.
Video: Medvedev advances to quarters for the first time ever (Wide World of Sports)
"It's one of the toughest challenges in our sport to be playing Novak at this grand slam in the later rounds."
Djokovic staggers on through Open drama
Champion Novak Djokovic had to overcome injury to battle through the third round of the Australian Open with a sensational five-set win over Taylor Fritz.Djokovic, struggling with a side injury, ultimately claimed a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 win over Taylor Fritz but admitted afterwards that he didn't know if he'd be fit for the next round of his title defence at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic has won five of the seven previous meetings between the pair, including a tight three-setter at the ATP Cup just two weeks ago.
"I had two of my biggest wins against him in the Rome final and London, but the other matches were extremely difficult," said the sixth-seeded Zverev.
"We've played twice in the last few months, in London and at the ATP Cup, which was an extremely close match which could have gone both ways.
"I think he would say the same thing.
"It's always a very physical match and always involves a lot of movement.
"You have to move extremely well against him."
Due to the abdominal injury, Djokovic claimed he had "basically no preparation" for his fourth-round encounter against Milos Raonic, which ended in a 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-1 6-4 win - his 300th at grand slam level.
"If it's any other tournament than a grand slam then I would retire, withdraw from the event, that's for sure," Djokovic said.
"When it warmed up it was fine and during the match today it was kind of on and off.
"It's not ideal, but I cannot complain.
"I won the match against a great player and hopefully it's going to be even better (against Zverev)."
Laver hails Djokovic's Open 'sublime 9' .
Three-time champions Rod Laver and Mats Wilander have led the tributes to Novak Djokovic after his magnificent ninth Australian Open triumph in Melbourne.The 82-year-old Australian legend loved what he saw of Djokovic's grace under pressure, suggesting that he had stamped his will on Russian Daniil Medvedev in the one-sided final at Melbourne Park.