MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Of his great talents, Novak Djokovic’s ability to let go of whatever seems to get in his way is perhaps the most valuable.
So, forget about the potential distraction of your dad’s decision to skip Rod Laver Arena for the Australian Open semi-final against American Tommy Ball on Friday. Forget the heavy bandage of the hamstring on his left leg that caused him problems last week. Forget how material points were against Paul. Forget that Djokovic had twice as many unforced errors, 24, than the winner, 12, in the first set. Forget the four consecutive matches that went to Paul’s side. Forget the brief discussion with the chair rule.
And just remember this: Djokovic never loses a semi-final, or final, at Melbourne Park. No. You lose. So, unsurprisingly, he overcame his hesitant early play and took control to defeat Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 and take another step towards what could be his 10th Australian Open Grand Slam title.
The 35-year-old Serbian said: “I am really grateful that I still have enough gas in my legs to be able to play at this level. Some of the long runs were very noticeable. Both our legs got heavy in the first set. I was lucky to hold my nerve.” At the end of the first set. That was the key. After that, I started moving the ball more.”
In addition, he extended his Australian Open winning streak to 27 matches, the longest since the inception of the Australian Open era in 1968.
His career came to a halt last year when he was expelled from the country before the start of the tournament for not being vaccinated against the coronavirus, which is a mandatory requirement to enter the country. It still is, but the strict border restrictions imposed by the pandemic have been eased.
In Sunday’s final, Djokovic will face Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas (III), who knocked out Russia’s Karen Khachanov 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 earlier in the day. His first final at Melbourne Park and his second at a Grand Slam.
Tsitsipas had more difficulty following all the rules that happen to beat his opponent at the start of the semi-finals, and he had to recover after missing two match points at the end of the third set, but after losing three matches in the semi-finals, he was finally able to go. Another step further in the first major of the season.
It looked like a pushover in most of the first three sets against Khachanov, but the Russian broke serve to win 5-4 in the third set and then squandered two chances to seal the win when he led 6-4 in the next tiebreak. Khachanov collected four points and neutralized the match points with a pair of powerful forehands. But Tsitsipas quickly picked up the pace and took a 3-0 lead in the final set.
“If you stay there, give yourself more, if you focus on these important moments, it pays off a lot,” said Tsitsipas.
Whoever lifts the trophy in Melbourne will also rise to the top of the ATP rankings. For Djokovic, it will be a return to the ranking that has occupied more weeks than anyone else, while for Tsitsipas it will be the first time.
“I love that number. It’s about you. Unique. It’s a 1,” he said. “These are the moments I’ve been working so hard for.”
Djokovic is a perfect 19-0 record in the last two rounds of the tournament and his nine titles is already a men’s record. He can add one more win to go along with his seven wins at Wimbledon, three at the US Open and two at Roland Garros, tying Rafa Nadal for the two most dedicated men, 22.
“Winning the Grand Slam and being #1 in the world are probably the two highest peaks you can climb as a professional tennis player,” said Djokovic, 10-2 against Tsitsipas and winning his last nine meetings. What happened.”
Tsitsipas’ other final was in a Grand Four at Roland Garros in 2021, when he won the first two sets before squandering his towering lead and falling to Djokovic in five sets.