Novak Djokovic set up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas after he stayed on course for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title in Melbourne on Friday.
The Serbian overcame a first-set wobble to defeat unheralded American Tommy Paul 7-5 6-1 6-2 to march into his 33rd Grand Slam final where he will be bidding to equal Rafael Nadal’s record tally of 22 titles.
His 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over American Paul looked straightforward on the scoreboard but it certainly did not feel that way when Djokovic lost four games in a row from 5-1 up in the opening set.
But he recovered to move in front and from there eased to the finishing line.
Djokovic vs Paul: Tale of the Tape
|75%||1st serve win percentage||53%|
|55%||2nd serve win percentage||44%|
|7/11||Break points won||2/9|
|12/15||Net points won||8/14|
|100||Total points won||68|
Djokovic will take on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a repeat of the 2021 French Open final in which he came from two sets down to defeat the Greek.
Third seed Tsitsipas had earlier overcome Karen Khachanov in four sets to reach his first Australian Open final, while his rematch against Djokovic will see the winner overtake Carlos Alcaraz as world No 1.
The 35-year-old, who set a new record of 27 straight match wins here, said: “I’m just really pleased to get to another final,” said Djokovic. “I respect him (Tsitsipas) a lot, he has improved a lot over the years. I actually think he’s one of the most interesting guys on tour with his interests off court, his hairstyle. But it’s all business on Sunday. Let the best player win.”
At times it has felt like a love-in for the Serbian on Rod Laver Arena, with his fans packing the stadium to welcome him back.
It was different here, though, with support for first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Paul growing as he threatened to do the unthinkable in the first set.
Novak Djokovic is the third male player in the Open Era to drop the fewest games combined in fourth round, quarter-finals and semi-finals (20) to advance at the Australian Open final after Ivan Lendl in 1990 (20) and Andre Agassi in 2003 (16).
Djokovic looked nervous to begin with but was not punished, saving two break points in the opening game and coming out on top in all the big moments to move into a 5-1 lead.
He then got into a row with umpire Damien Dumusois around when to start the shot clock and remarkably lost 11 of the next 13 points, dropping serve twice in succession.
But Paul was unable to hold his own serve to force a tie-break and, to boos from the crowd, Djokovic returned to his seat gesturing for the noise to get louder.
Winning the opening set allowed Djokovic, who again showed no sign of being bothered by his left hamstring issue, to loosen up a little.
Novak Djokovic has the become the fourth oldest male player in the Open Era to reach the final at the Australian Open, younger only than Ken Rosewall (1972 and 1971), Mal Anderson (1972) and Roger Federer (2018).
He broke serve at the start of the second set and from there Paul, who is a willing runner with a fine backhand but no big weapons, was unable to land more than a fleeting blow on Djokovic, who sealed another one-sided victory in his bid for a 22nd Grand Slam title.
Source : Sky Sports