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.
Johanna Konta makes progress while Dan Evans fails as grass court season gathers pace
Johanna Konta is safely through to…
‘A night you will remember forever’ – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal react to their French Open epic
Nadal went into the contest having won 105 of his previous 107 matches on the Parisian clay, but he was beaten by his great rival.
Rafael Nadal suffers French Open semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic
The story of the 13th day of action at Roland Garros.
Novak Djokovic dethrones Rafael Nadal to reach French Open final
Nadal suffered just his third loss at the French Open, with Djokovic setting up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Phenomenal Novak Djokovic pulls off sensational win to end Rafael Nadal’s French Open reign
Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal’s reign as champion.
‘It was nerve-racking, it was so intense’ – Stefanos Tsitsipas after battling past Alexander Zverev
Stefanos Tsitsipas prevailed in five sets against Alexander Zverev.
‘I’m just going to have fun,’ says Barbora Krejcikova as she looks to win a French Open double
Krejcikova will feature in singles and doubles finals.
‘There is a real buzz of anticipation,’ says Tim Henman ahead of Wimbledon return
The 2020 Championships were cancelled due to Covid-19.
Johanna Konta edges closer to ending her title drought after reaching Viking Open semi-finals
Johanna Konta eyes first WTA Tour title since 2017.
Roger Federer ‘pretty positive about his chances’ as he looks to step up a gear on grass
“I’ve only seen improvement, no setbacks,” says Roger Federer.