The 25-year-old delivered a rock-solid fourth-round performance Monday at Melbourne Park, where he prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in a clean-hitting matchup against Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam for the first time.
”It was a really physical, tough match,” said Paul after his hard-earned victory on Margaret Court Arena. “Any time you play Bautista it’s going to be a war. So I was prepared for that match and I thought I executed really well today. It’s always fun playing on this court, I think it was my third time playing here and it’s always a blast.”
— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 23, 2023
Paul was a constant menace to the Spaniard in his return game throughout the pair’s fifth tour-level meeting. He converted six of 15 break points to maintain the upper hand for much of the match, despite a second-set Bautista Agut revival. Against a player renowned for his ability to regularly hit through opponents, Paul outhit Bautista Agut by 58 winners to 35 to seal his 11th-straight victory against Spanish opponents in three hours and 19 minutes.
“I felt like I was running a lot, so I definitely wanted to be on offence a little bit more there towards the end of the match,” added Paul. “I feel like the first set, I was kind of controlling everything, and then he was finding so many forehands later in the match and making me run. That wasn’t a lot of fun, but I’m happy to get through that one.”
The win improved Paul’s record for 2023 to 5-1 and reduced his ATP Head2Head series deficit against Bautista Agut to 2-3. As a result of his run in Melbourne so far this fortnight, the American has risen seven spots to No. 28 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
Paul takes on Ben Shelton next after the 20-year-old downed J.J. Wolf in five sets to extend his dream Australian Open debut. With Sebastian Korda also into the quarter-finals, this marks the first time since 2000 that three American men have reached the last eight in Melbourne — and the first time at any Slam since the 2005 US Open.
“I think he [Shelton] was down two-sets-to-one when I came on court, so I had no idea who I would play if I won, but I was happy with either [Shelton or Wolf],” said Paul. “I’m really happy to be playing an American in the quarters. There’s going to be an American in the semis for sure, so I’m really excited for that, and hopefully you guys can come out and watch that one too.”