Novak Djokovic into 10th Australian Open decider after mauling Tommy Paul

Friday, 27 January 2023 (21:37 IST)
Melbourne: Novak Djokovic stayed perfect in Australian Open semifinals, beating Tommy Paul in straight sets on Friday night to make a record-extending 10th men's final at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic overcame an early hiccup on a humid night at Rod Laver Arena before advancing 7-5 6-1 6-2 past the American, who contested his maiden Grand Slam semifinal.
Going deep at majors is nothing new for Djokovic.
Already the leader among the men, Sunday against Stefanos Tsitsipas marks his 33rd Grand Slam final to equal Serena Williams for second on the all-time leaderboard.
If Djokovic continues his trend of never losing an Australian Open final, he also collects a 22nd major to equal fellow "Big Three" stalwart Rafael Nadal.
How Paul would have loved an early break to work himself into the contest; he almost got it.
But facing two break chances at the outset, two terrific Djokovic first serves helped the Serb hold.
It was damaging to Paul and seemed impossible to overturn when he trailed 5-1 and was a point away from losing the first set.
A discussion with chair umpire Damien Dumusois – centring on the time between points – may have unsettled Djokovic. He was broken.
Even more remarkable, Paul got back on serve when he outlasted Djokovic in a 30-shot rally. Be it putting away Djokovic's drop shots or trading on the baseline, the speedy 25-year-old suddenly had all the answers.
Crucially, Djokovic's serve returned at 5-5 for a hold. And his defensive lob with Paul serving at 30-15 in the ensuing game sparked a turnaround.
It was a sickener for Paul, as he dropped the one-hour set on a wide forehand.
Djokovic – who repeatedly wiped the sweat off his lower arm – earned breathing space early, but the score in the second set was a tad misleading.
The world No.35 pressurised Djokovic at 0-2, manufacturing three break points that were ultimately untaken. A stretch of Djokovic claiming 11 of 13 points subsequently blew open the set.
This time, he didn't blink from 5-1 up and never blinked again to seal a 27th straight win at the Australian Open in two hours, 22 minutes to pass Andre Agassi.
Djokovic holds a commanding 10-2 record against Tsitsipas, including winning the last nine and all four – conceding one set – in 2022.
When they met in the 2021 French Open final, Djokovic had to overturn a two-set deficit.
"I think it was the first time I came from two sets to love down in a Grand Slam final. It was also his first Grand Slam final," Djokovic said, right on both counts. "It was a really physical, emotional, mental battle, it always is with Stefanos."
Although winning majors is Djokovic's main priority nowadays, the winner of Sunday night's final also bags the No.1 ranking.
"Winning Grand Slams and being the No. 1 are probably the two biggest peaks you can climb as a professional tennis player," said Djokovic, the men's record holder with 373 weeks at No.1.
"Let’s see what happens." (UNI)

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