Novak Djokovic locks out Tommy Paul to face Tsitsipas for the title

Melbourne, Australia – Of all his wonderful talents, Novak DjokovicHis ability to eliminate whatever seems to stand in his way may be the most valuable.

So forget about the potential distraction of his father’s decision to walk away from Rod Laver Arena in Djokovic’s semi-final against the unseeded American. Tommy Paul at the Australian Open on Friday. Forget about the badly glued left hamstring that was a problem last week. Forget how material the points were against Paul. Forget how Djokovic caused twice as many unforced errors, 24, as the winners, 12, in the first set. Forget about the quiet four-game winning streak went to Paul. Forget about brevity back and forth with the rule of the chair.

Simply remember this: Djokovic never loses a semi-final or final at Melbourne Park. And so, not surprisingly, he overcame some shaky play at the start and took control of the match, beating Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 to seal his 10th Australian Open title and 22nd Grand Slam title overall.

“I am really grateful that I still have enough gas in my legs to be able to play at this level,” said the 35-year-old Djokovic from Serbia. “Some long rallies, you can really feel it. We both had heavy legs in the first set. I was really lucky to hit my nerve at the end of the first set. That was key. After that, I started swinging through the ball more.”

Djokovic extended his Australian Open winning streak to 27 matches, the longest in the Open Era, which dates back to 1968.

There was a pause in that winning streak a year ago, when Djokovic was deported from Australia before the competition began because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19. He has yet to get the shots, but the strict border controls the country imposed earlier in the pandemic have been eased.

Defending his father, Crdjan, Djokovic said, “Of course, it’s not a good idea for me to have to go through this with all the things I had to deal with last year and this year in Australia. It’s not something I want or need.” , for standing with a group of people waving Russian flags—at least one showing a picture of Vladimir Putin—after his quarter-final victory over a Russian opponent. “I hope people will let it go and we can focus on tennis.”

And on Sunday, No. 4 seed Djokovic will play No. 3 seed Djokovic Stefanos Tsitsipaswho was left out Karen Khachanov 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 to reach his first final at Melbourne Park and second slam dunk.

Whoever wins the final will rise to number one in the ATP rankings. For Djokovic, it would be a return to the place he has held for more weeks than anyone else; For Tsitsipas, this will be a debut there.

It’s all about you. It’s unique. It’s No. 1,” said Tsitsipas, who was 0-3 in the Australian Open semi-finals before Friday. “These are the moments I’ve been working so hard for.”

Djokovic is now a perfect 19-0 in the last two rounds in Melbourne, and his nine wins there are already a men’s record. If he can add one more to go with his seven Wimbledon titles, three US Opens and two French Opens, Djokovic would equal Rafael Nadal For the most Grand Slam titles by a man.

“Winning Grand Slams and being No. 1 in the world are probably the two biggest peaks you can climb as a professional tennis player,” said Djokovic, who is 10-2 against Tsitsipas in their last nine consecutive meetings. “So let’s see what happens.”

Tsitsipas’ other major final came at the 2021 French Open, when he grabbed the first two sets before taking a huge lead and losing to Djokovic in five matches.

It was all linked to an amusing moment this week, when Djokovic said of Tsitsipas: “He’s never played a final, am I wrong?” Djokovic, who was reminded by reporters of what happened at Roland Garros, responded by saying, “That’s right. Sorry, my bad.”

When asked about this exchange, Tsitsipas replied with a deadpan expression: “I don’t remember either.”

Until this week, the 35th-ranked Paul had not made it past the fourth round in his previous 13 appearances in a major.

The 25-year-old was born in New Jersey and raised in North Carolina, where he played tennis at a club where the walls were decorated with posters. Andy Roddick – Last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title, at the 2003 US Open. That drought will continue for the time being, because even though Djokovic wasn’t at his best in the opening set, he was good enough at the end of it, breaking in the match The latter, and he never backed down.

“He didn’t really allow me to implement any game plan that I wanted to do,” said Paul.

The flashes reached Djokovic at the start.

The footwork was not up to the usual reach for every ball. The making of the bullets was subpar. The meal was as well. He started gesturing and shouting in the direction of coach Goran Ivanisević and the rest of his entourage.

In the first match, Djokovic missed a ball over his head, a weakness he never resolved. He threw a backhand into the net. He made a mistake. However, he overcame that to take a 5-1 lead.

Then came a rapid shift in direction. Djokovic had a crack when serving for the set there. And again at 5-3, when Paul hit a forehand down the line and Djokovic’s backhand hit 29. Hold Paul for 5-all.

Can he match it?

Not for longer. Djokovic, the greatest returner of his generation, or perhaps any, broke to close out that set, when Paul served up a wide forehand. Serbian flags were displayed all over the stands, and chants of Djokovic’s two-syllable nickname filled the Rod Laver Arena, “No-le! No-le!”

The contest has never been a contest from there.

“Playing the game and losing is such a kind of absorbent,” said Paul. “But I mean, it’s great to see the level I want to be at and to know how good I can play if I want to beat people like that. I think it’s been a good experience.”

Tsitsipas had a harder time following the rules governing 25-second serve time and foot errors than Khachanov did for nearly three full sets, then rebounded after dropping two match points late in the third set.

He quickly got back on his feet, taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth and wrapping up the win about 40 minutes after his initial opportunity.

“We couldn’t be more prepared for this moment,” Tsitsipas said, looking forward to Sunday.

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