The semi-final match-up of Novak Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev was always going to end one way with a victory for the Serbian world number one, who for only the second time at this year’s edition of the Australian Open, won through in straight sets.
I have two days now. I'll definitely train one of the next two days. Recovery is priority right now. I'm feeling the ball well, I had enough match play, so right now it's just gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match Novak Djokovic
Much was expected of the Russian Karatsev considering he had not only come through the qualifying event, but then progressed impressively to reach the last four in what has been a dream run for a player ranked 114.
In the process he dispatched the world number three Dominic Thiem in the previous round to make him the first qualifier to reach the semi-finals on his grand slam debut.
To actually reach the final would have certainly been an extraordinary achievement for a player who was very much a regular on the Challenger circuit but then he had surprised many during his passage and be one of the four still standing from an 128 field.
But there can be no denying that the run must have taken its toll on him and in spite of Djokovic having been extended in each round barring the first, and the deceptive abdominal injury he was carrying, David, on this occasion could not bring down Goliath!
But he didn’t let himself down despite a lopsided 6-3 6-4 6-2 score line. The fire and spirit which saw the 27-year-old Russian achieve a run of results which will push him into the world’s top 50, was evident.
Karatsev showed no nerves as he stepped out on the Rod Laver Arena for the biggest match of his career and where the spectators were now back in following the end of Melbourne’s five-day emergency lockdown.
He fell behind when Djokovic broke for 5-3 in the set which was enough for the Serb to claim it a game later.
The world number one pushed ahead and looked to be in complete control only for Karatsev to lift his game and open his shoulders to claw his way back from 1-5 to 4-5 in the second set forcing Djokovic to save a couple of break points.
Again, the Russian retrieved an early break in the third but by now Djokivic had got his measure to complete his victory with a run of four consecutive game after one hour and 53-minutes to keep his personal ambition of a record ninth AO title and close the gap in Grand Slams single titles won, to two behind Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
“This is the best I’ve felt in the entire tournament,” the defending champion said
“(I) felt great, I could swing through the ball, no pain. Best match so far. It came at the right time and I’m thrilled to feel this way.
“I have two days now. I’ll definitely train one of the next two days. Recovery is priority right now. I’m feeling the ball well, I had enough match play, so right now it’s just gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match.”
Djokovic has now won all 17 matches in the semi-finals and beyond at Melbourne Park and he is favourite to hold on to his title and lift his total to nine on Sunday when he pays his 28th final at a Grand Slam.
He can now relax as his final opponent has yet to come through from the bottom half of the draw and he can expect a tough match from either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas who meet tomorrow, Friday.