Novak Djokovic is chasing an 11th Australian Open title

Melbourne (AFP) - Novak Djokovic said the fire “is still burning” after outclassing Adrian Mannarino to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and stay on track for a record 25th Grand Slam title.

The Serbian on Sunday ran rings around his French opponent on Rod Laver Arena, winning 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 to underline his status as red-hot favourite to lift an 11th title at Melbourne Park.

“I really wanted to lose that game in the third set because the tension was building up so much in the stadium,” he said, referring to the possibility of completing a rare “triple bagel”.

“I just needed to get that out of the way and re-focus.”

The world number one, who said he had “executed perfectly”, is into the last eight of a Grand Slam for the 58th time, equalling Roger Federer’s men’s record as he maintains an iron grip on the game.

He has now won 32 consecutive matches at the tournament, not tasting defeat since he lost to South Korea’s Chung Hyeon in 2018.

The 10-time champion did not compete in 2022 due to his coronavirus vaccination status.

- Intensity -

Djokovic said he thought there would be less stress around practice and matches this season but admitted the intensity was as fierce as ever even though he is now 36.

“You can see it even today,” he said. “I was 6-0, 2-0 up. It was a long game, and I was like going on with discussions, heated discussions, with my box.

“I always look for the best performance from myself so I put a lot of effort every single day into making it happen. When it doesn’t happen, I’m frustrated.

“It’s still there. The fire is still burning. I think that’s what allowed me to be where I am and achieve the things that I have achieved.”

Mannarino, 35, has enjoyed a late-career resurgence, winning three titles last year, at Newport, Astana and Sofia.

But he was made to look ordinary by the top seed, who never took his foot off the pedal.

Djokovic won the first 13 games and looked a good bet to complete a clean sweep.

But the 20th seed eventually held serve and at least made the defending champion work to close out the win, which he did in 1 hour 44 minutes.

Djokovic started his 2024 Australian Open campaign slowly, struggling with a virus and dropping sets in his first two matches, but his level has since soared.

He will play 12th seed Taylor Fritz for a place in the semi-finals after the American beat last year’s finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in four sets.

Djokovic said a hunger to break even more records and win more majors still drives him, as well as his love for the game.

He is level with Margaret Court on 24 Grand Slams but is already out on his own in men’s tennis – two clear of the injured Rafael Nadal and four ahead of the retired Roger Federer.

Djokovic, who has two children, admitted being separated from his family takes its toll, but he has no immediate plans to step away from the court.

“I feel while being number one and still on top of the game, I don’t feel like leaving tennis in that position,” he said.

“I feel like I want to keep on going. When I feel that I am not able to compete at the highest level with the guys and be a contender for a Grand Slam title, then I’ll probably consider going into retirement.

“But that can change, obviously. I mean, a lot of things can change.”