If we are honest with ourselves, most of us probably wanted to see a Novak Djokovic and Ben Shelton match in the fourth round of the Australian Open. After the two played in the semifinals of the US Open and the entire phone mime fiasco, Djokovic versus Shelton would have made for must-watch tennis. But instead, we are going to see Djokovic take on Adrian Mannarino.
Djokovic had his easiest match of the tournament so far as he swept through 30th-seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry. Djokovic never faced a break point in his 6-3 6-3 7-6(2) victory. But the Serb took advantage of a fairly weak Eycheverry backhand as he kept hammering away at that side with pace and placement. Instead of what we saw in Novak Djokovic's first two matches of the Australian Open, we got classic and ruthless Djokovic in the third round.
The victory was Djokovic's 31st straight win at the first Grand Slam of the year. He has not lost since 2018. He definitely did not appear on the verge of breezing to another title in Melbourne through two rounds, but not he appears to be playing like the solid favorite again.
Novak Djokovic will face Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round of the Australian Open
Ben Shelton, though, played the tricky Adrian Mannarino. This was definitely a contrast of styles as Mannarino has some of the least power on the ATP tour among top 30 players while Shelton is almost all power. For the third straight match in this year's Aussie Open, however. Mannarino was able to move through to the next round after winning a five-set match. The Frenchman's victory over the American took 4 hours and 46 minutes and finished 7-6(4) 1-6 6-7(2) 6-3 6-4.
Mannarino certainly will not be afraid of his fourth round opponent, however. He has enough experience to remain calm in the biggest moments of matches. Djokovic will have to earn the victory.
Mannarino has never beaten Djokovic, though. The two players have met four times, but they have not met since 2018. In the four matches, Mannarino has won only one set. Perhaps, as Mannarino mentioned in his on-court post-match interview after his victory against Shelton, the Frenchman just needs a little tequila before the fourth round. Mannarino said the secret to his new success was the liquor.