Novak Djokovic produces his ‘best match so far’ to end Aslan Karatsev run and reach Australian Open final
Novak Djokovic ended the remarkable run of qualifier Aslan Karatsev to reach a ninth Australian Open final.
The world No 1, who has won the title on each of the eight previous occasions he has reached the semi-finals in Melbourne, claimed his first straight-sets win since the first round, beating the world No 114 from Russia 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
It was a much-needed comfortable evening for Djokovic after the dramas of his tournament so far, including an abdominal injury suffered in a third-round five-setter against Taylor Fritz and a nail-biting victory over Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
This is Novak’s #AusOpen world and we’re just living in it 🌏
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
He admitted that left him feeling emotionally drained and this was not entirely straightforward, with Karatsev clawing his way back from 1-5 to 4-5 in the second set and forcing Djokovic to save two break points.
The roar let out by the top seed when he clinched the game showed what a big moment it was, and he ended with a run of four games in a row.
Djokovic, who will play in a 28th slam final against either Daniil Medvedev or Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday, said: “This is the best I’ve felt in the entire tournament.
“(I) felt great, I could swing through the ball, no pain. Best match so far. It came at the right time and I’m thrilled to feel this way.
“I have two days now. I’ll definitely train one of the next two days. Recovery is priority right now. I’m feeling the ball well, I had enough match play, so right now it’s just gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match.”
Karatsev’s victory over Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday made him the first man in the Open era to reach the semi-finals on his grand slam debut, and he was looking to become the first qualifier to make a final.
The 27-year-old Russian, who will rocket into the top 50 having never previously been inside the top 100, was far from overwhelmed against Djokovic but he discovered just why the Serbian is renowned as arguably the greatest defensive player the game has seen.
He began very well, showing no nerves in by far the biggest match of his career, but a loose game allowed Djokovic to break for 5-3 and that was the first set gone.
The world No 1 looked in complete control of the second but there were signs he was still not feeling totally confident physically as he took his foot off the pedal and back came Karatsev.
The Russian retrieved another break at the start of the third set but Djokovic forged ahead again and completed the victory after an hour and 53 minutes.
Emma Raducanu makes a leap in the tennis rankings without striking a ball
Raducanu has enjoyed a welcome rankings boost, without even striking a ball in anger.
Emma Raducanu reveals her ultimate Grand Slam dream in engaging Chinese interview
Raducanu has admitted she has a dream to win Wimbledon after her stunning US Open triumph
Andy Murray wants British tennis to change perceptions after Emma Raducanu’s win
The teenager ended a 44-year wait for a British woman to win a grand slam singles title.
Andy Murray preparing for a return to the ATP Tour in France
Murray has accepted a wildcard to play another tournament in France.
Remarkable statistics confirm Daniil Medvedev is the new king of hard courts
Daniil Medvedev can now be hailed as the new king of hard courts.
Exclusive – Myleene Klass believes Emma Raducanu can inspire a generation
Myleene Klass has revealed Emma Raducanu has inspired her daughters to reach for the stars after her stunning win at the US Open.
Dominic Thiem on Emma Raducanu’s US Open win: ‘It’s one of the greatest achievements in women’s sport’
“Perhaps it is the greatest breakthrough of all time,” says Dominic Thiem.
‘Unfair that Novak Djokovic is always the bad guy and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the good guys’
“I hope he is treated a little more fairly,” says Boris Becker.
Venus Williams explains backstory behind photo with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at Met Gala
Just Venus, Serena and Maria enjoying a laugh in the bathroom at the Met Gala.
‘I think it’s gradually sinking in a bit more,’ says Emma Raducanu after ‘whirlwind experience’
The teenager took part in a round of breakfast TV and radio interviews.