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Roundup: Red-hot Djokovic, Sabalenka motor into Australian Open semis

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after the men's singles quarterfinal against Andrey Rublev of Russia at Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)

Hot favorites Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka made into men's and women's semifinals at the Australian Open after straight-set victories.

MELBOURNE, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Peerless Novak Djokovic strengthened his overwhelming Australian Open favoritism on Wednesday with a quarterfinal thrashing of fifth seed Andrey Rublev, while Aryna Sabalenka remained on track to win her first Grand Slam title.

Nine-time champion Djokovic appears unstoppable in his march towards a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam trophy after crushing the Russian 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

The 25-year-old Rublev was unable to break his quarterfinal curse having lost for the seventh straight time at this stage.

He appeared to run out of gas after prevailing in a five-set epic against rising Danish star Holger Rune in the fourth round.

Fourth seed Djokovic took advantage and showed no signs of a hamstring injury that troubled him earlier in the tournament.

"I cannot be happier with my tennis. I am playing very solid from the back of the court," the Serbian said.

"All the important shots and moments I found my best and that's what makes me most proud."

Novak Djokovic of Serbia serves during the men's singles quarterfinal against Andrey Rublev of Russia at Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)

Djokovic set up a semifinal clash with 35th ranked Tommy Paul, who continued his dream run with a 7-6 (6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Ben Shelton in an all-American quarterfinal.

By reaching his maiden Grand Slam semifinal, the 25-year-old Paul became the first American men's player to make the last four since Andy Roddick in 2009.

"Making it to the second weekend of a slam, that's everyone's dream when they start playing tennis, so I can't believe I'm here right now," said Paul, who hit 43 winners.

"There wasn't too much rhythm in the match, but Ben is very tough to play against."

The 20-year-old Shelton fired down 24 aces, but it wasn't enough as his fairytale first Grand Slam away from the U.S. ended.

Tommy Paul of the United States hits a return during the men's singles quarterfinal against his compatriot Ben Shelton at Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Guo Lei)

Sabalenka, the highest remaining seed in the women's draw, will play unseeded Pole Magda Linette for a place in Saturday's final.

With the top four seeds eliminated, in-form Sabalenka has been deemed the title favourite in a golden opportunity to break her Grand Slam drought.

She has not dropped a set so far this year, but was made to work by 64th ranked Donna Vekic before prevailing 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 49 minutes.

"It feels really special to be in the semifinals here, it was a tough match," said Sabalenka, who was contesting her first quarterfinal in Melbourne.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus hits a return during the women's singles quarterfinal against Donna Vekic of Croatia at Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Guo Lei)

Sabalenka will be hoping to win her first semifinal at a Grand Slam after three previous failed attempts when she plays surprise packet Linette.

The upsets in an unpredictable women's draw continued when 45th ranked Linette stunned former world number one Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 to reach her first semifinal at a Grand Slam.

"I'm so emotional, I can't really believe it," 30-year-old Linette said. "It's a dream come true. I'm super grateful and happy."

"I will never forget this. That's the first time ever I'm breaking through. This will stay with me for life."

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus hits a return during the women's singles quarterfinal against Donna Vekic of Croatia at Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Guo Lei)

Both women's semifinals will be played on Thursday.

Yang Zhaoxuan, China's last remaining player in Melbourne, was knocked out of the women's doubles alongside Chan Hao-ching from Chinese Taipei as they fell to second seed Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-1.

The Americans, who have both exited the single's draw, will meet Japanese 10th seed Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama in the semifinals. ■