Thursday, 20 Jun, 2024


Djokovic sees off Paul to set up Tsitsipas final 

Sports Desk |
Update: 2023-01-28 12:54:40
Djokovic sees off Paul to set up Tsitsipas final  [photo collected]

Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic steamrolled another opponent as he beat Tommy Paul to set up an Australian Open final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Serbia's Djokovic, 35, overcame a wobble in the opening set, re-establishing his authority to earn a 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over the American.

Tsitsipas, 24, has another chance to land his first Grand Slam title after beating Russian Karen Khachanov.

Greek third seed Tsitsipas won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 against Khachanov.

Tsitsipas booked his place in Sunday's final after recovering from 18th seed Khachanov saving two match points in the third-set tie-break.

Another tight forehand saw a third chance disappear in what proved to be the final game, before Tsitsipas regained his composure to convert his fourth when Khachanov batted long a first serve.

Tsitsipas lost to Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and now has the opportunity to avenge that defeat in his first appearance in the Australian Open showpiece.

But to lift the trophy, he must become the first player to beat Djokovic at Melbourne Park since 2018.

Djokovic, who beat Paul to set a new landmark of 27 consecutive wins in the men's singles here, is aiming for a record-extending 10th title which would equal Rafael Nadal's tally of 22 major men's titles.

The winner will also become the new world number one.

Djokovic had raced through the previous rounds without any major incident and, after a couple of days where his father Srdjan had captured headlines for posing with supporters of Russia president Vladimir Putin, he looked set for more minimal fuss on the court against Paul.

'We are against the war' - Djokovic
Spending as a little time on court as possible appeals to the Serb as he tries to limit the impact on a hamstring injury which has bothered him all tournament.

After he thrashed Australian hope Alex de Minaur and Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev in little over two hours, an even quicker defeat looked to be heading Paul's way on his first appearance in a major semi-final.

Djokovic led 5-1 in the opening set but it took him another half an hour to seal the advantage.

Serving for the set, Djokovic allowed his progress to be derailed by a row with umpire Damien Dumusois over the French official starting the 25-second shot clock while he was still using his towel.

The exchange signalled a change of momentum. Djokovic won just three of the next 16 points as Paul fought back to level at 5-5.

But the former world number one regained his focus when it mattered at the business end of the set to break again.

Djokovic celebrated by cocking his ear to the crowd and, with a steely focus back, broke twice in each of the next two sets to secure victory after two hour and 20 minutes.

Tsistipas feeling at home in Melbourne
At a tournament with a hard-court surface on which he thrives, and in a city where he is warmly backed by its large Greek population, Tsitsipas has long appeared destined for success at the Australian Open.

The towering youngster announced his arrival there with a famous 2019 win over defending champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, only for a captivating run to be ended when he was crushed by Rafael Nadal in his first semi-final appearance.

Long-time rival Daniil Medvedev ended his dreams at the last-four stage in both 2021 and 2022, with another Russian - the powerful Khachanov - standing in his way this time.

Backed by a vocal crowd who waved Greek flags after virtually all of his winning points, Tsitsipas started confidently against a player who he had beaten in all of their five previous encounters.

Khachanov could not cope with Tsitsipas' pounding groundstrokes and dynamic athleticism as the world number four moved two sets ahead.

When Tsitsipas broke early in the third set and moved into a 5-4 lead which left him serving for the match, few on Rod Laver Arena expected anything other than a straight-set win.

However, nerves kicked in for Tsitsipas, who suddenly looked unsure with his groundstrokes, and Khachanov cut loose to extend the contest.

After a bathroom break before the fourth set, Tsitsipas returned free of the weight of expectation and broke Khachanov's serve at the first opportunity.

Dominant service games from that point ensured there would be no repeat of the previous set as he finally reached the final of what he calls his "home" Grand Slam event.

"I feel blessed for the fact I'm able to play tennis at this level and for many years I've wanted to put Greek tennis on the map - Maria [Sakkari] and I have done that, I think," Tsitsipas said.

"Coming from a small country like Greece I feel so grateful I get support like this.

"I never thought I would be treated so well here so I'm extremely happy I'm in the final now - let's see what happens."

Source: BBC

BDST: 1254 HRS, JAN 28, 2023

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