Novak Djokovic reaches Australian Open semi-finals after outclassing Andrey Rublev
Novak Djokovic equalled the record of former coach Andre Agassi with a 26th consecutive victory at the Australian Open to reach the semi-finals.
The nine-time champion was again in superb form, painting the lines consistently in a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory over fifth seed Andrey Rublev on Rod Laver Arena to set up a clash with unseeded American Tommy Paul.
Djokovic has not been beaten at Melbourne Park since 2018 – part of a 39-match winning run in Australia – and has now matched the sequence of victories of Agassi between 2000 and 2004.
Djokovic said: “I cannot be happier with my tennis. I’ve been playing very solid. I love playing in these conditions, on this court. Overall I think the scoreline in the first two sets doesn’t speak the truth of the match.
“Andrey is a great player. All the important moments and the important shots, I found my best tennis, so that’s what I’m most pleased about tonight.”
The fifth seed at times did again appear bothered by his left hamstring but it did not affect his ability to hare around the court repelling everything big-hitting Russian Rublev threw at him.
He was more affected by a heckler who called out “Come on Andrey, send him home” during the first set, drawing loud boos from the largely pro-Djokovic crowd and prompting the Serbian to complain to British umpire James Keothavong.
It was Rublev’s turn to appeal to Keothavong in the second set when he felt Djokovic should have received a time violation but the Russian, bidding to reach his first slam semi-final at the seventh attempt, was mostly frustrated by the man down the other end of the court.
Djokovic, who has never lost once he has reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, was virtually flawless in the big moments, saving all five break points he faced and wrapping up victory in two hours and three minutes.
Earlier, Paul got the better of fellow American Ben Shelton to reach his first grand slam semi-final.
The run of 20-year-old Shelton, in just his second grand slam and on his first trip outside the USA, has been one of the stories of the tournament but Paul used his greater experience to secure a 7-6 (6) 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory.
Speaking before the conclusion of the second quarter-final, the 25-year-old said: “I’m really excited. It wasn’t the prettiest match ever today but it was how I needed to play the match. He’s a great server. I had to just put in as many returns as I could.
“But I’m really excited, man. It’s really cool. I think it’s even cooler if I do play (Djokovic). I probably have a better chance of winning if it’s Rublev, but to play Novak here in Australia would be awesome.”
Paul, who will break into the top 20 for the first time after the tournament, becomes the first American man to reach the semi-finals here since Andy Roddick in 2009.
With Sebastian Korda also in the last eight, this was the best display by American men at a grand slam for nearly 20 years and appears to herald an exciting era for the country, which has been searching for a successor to Roddick for the last decade.
There is a lot of excitement about Shelton, who has not yet left college, and he might turn out to be the best of the lot, but this was Paul’s day.
The American was cheered on by his mother, who hopped on a plane after his fourth-round win and arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I was actually, when I first heard, pretty nervous because we’ve had a good thing going here and I didn’t really want to change anything.
“After a little bit of thinking, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m in the quarter-finals of a slam. She’s sacrificed a ton to get me here. She deserves to be here and deserves to see me win big matches’. I was really excited to see her and have her here.”
The 7 players to win titles after saving a match point in 2023: Novak Djokovic, Hubert Hurkacz feature twice
Here is a look at the nine times players saved a match point en route to winning ATP titles in 2023.
Rafael Nadal backed to ‘find the rhythm’ as Roger Federer comeback comparison is made
A former ATP star is optimistic about Rafael Nadal’s comeback and used Roger Federer to illustrate his point.
Novak Djokovic has one big weakness – and here is why his opponents struggle to expose it on court
We look at why Djokovic has always struggled with his overheads at the net and what opponents could do to take advantage of that flaw.
Rising American star picks Novak Djokovic as his dream opponent ‘because he’s the GOAT’
An ATP up-and-comer would love to face Novak Djokovic as he thinks the Serbian is the GOAT.
Novak Djokovic hailed for helping young star in ‘wonderful act of kindness’ by former top pro
Novak Djokovic has been praised for his generosity by a top coach and former ATP star.
‘I still have faith in seeing Rafael Nadal win another Roland Garros title’, says former ATP star
Rafael Nadal has been backed to triumph at the French Open one last time by a former competitor.
The 13 youngest ATP Tour title winners in 2023: Carlos Alcaraz 2nd, Holger Rune 3rd
The “new Big Three” of Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune are on the youngest champions in 2023 list.
Cameron Norrie exclusive on his biggest lesson from 2023 and why he believes he can become world No 1
Lexus ambassador Cameron Norrie looks back on a year that has highs and lows for a player who has ambitions to reach the very top.
Emma Raducanu’s special ranking won’t give her entry into Australian Open main draw so what next?
Emma Raducanu’s special ranking is not good enough for entry into the main draw of the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic’s iconic racket is sold at auction and the price exceeds all expectations
The racket has been put up for sale on the SCP auction site, with an expectation that it would sell for a fee in excess of $50,000.