The Serbian star remains on course for a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title
History beckons once again for Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic after he emphatically defeated American Tommy Paul on Friday to qualify for yet another Australian Open final.Djokovic will meet Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s clash in pursuit of what would be a tenth title Down Under, with a win also drawing him level with Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in the all-time Grand Slam stakes, with 22 wins.Australian Open specialist Djokovic roared out of the blocks in the first set, storming to a 5-1 lead before a brief discussion with the umpire over the use of towels appeared to stifle his momentum, and led to his serve being broken twice to quickly level the scores at 5-5.That was as good as it got for the American. Paul claimed a 30-0 lead on his next service game, only for Djokovic to click back into gear and storm into the lead – taking the first set 7-5.
From there, it was business as usual for the Serb – who recorded his 27th successive win at the Australian Open, breaking a record held by Andre Agassi.Djokovic, who has never lost a final at the Australian Open, forged a path to another when he took the second set 6-1 and again met little resistance in the third to take the set – and the match – with a score of 6-2 in a little over 2 hours and 20 minutes on court.“I have strong memories of 15 years ago, but I wouldn’t have imagined things to have turned out like they have. I’m so blessed and grateful, marvelling and cherishing every moment,” Djokovic said afterwards.“[My level is] great, it’s perfect. It’s 110%,” he added, apparently not feeling the effects of a hamstring injury which had been troubling him earlier in the tournament.“Stefanos, see you in two days!
Of course, you’re not as fresh as in the beginning, but we put in a lot of hours throughout the offseason into fitness to be in a good enough condition to play best of five.“I know what’s expected of me. Experience helps, but on court, moment to moment, it’s a great battle with yourself and your opponent. You can feel the long rallies; we both had heavy legs. I held my nerves at the end of the first set; that was a key moment where I started swinging through the ball more.”Djokovic’s advancement to the final comes a year on from his contentious deportation from Australia following a vaccination row with Australian immigration officials.He was initially suspended from entering Australia for a period of three years, though this penalty was rescinded in November.The Djokovic family was the subject of more off-the-court drama this week, however, after Novak’s father Srdjan Djokovic declined to attend his son’s semifinal match after he was pictured in the company of supporters flying the Russian tricolor following Djokovic’s Wednesday win against Russia’s Andrey Rublev.Displaying the Russian flag was banned by Tennis Australia officials earlier in the tournament.