Melbourne | Djokovic and Paul battle through to SF

Novak Djokovic has reached his 10th Australian Open semi-final and hopes that he will be lifting the AO trophy for a record tenth time on Sunday!

Andrey is a great opponent, a great player, I have tons of respect for him. He has one of the biggest forehands, [and is] one of the quickest players on the tour. If I had to sum it up, in all the important moments I played my best tennis so that’s what makes me the most pleased tonight. Novak Djokovic

His quarter final opponent was unable to make much of an impression on the Serbian former world number one who is well on his way to equalling his great rival, Rafa Nadal’s record of 22 grand slam wins.

Djokovic demolished Andrei Rublev 6-1 6-2 6-4 and again showed no signs that the hamstring injury he is ‘carrying’ on his left thigh, is proving to be a hindrance.

It would seem that the only way to ‘defeat’ him would be deporting him again like last year, as one heckler suggested from the stands, and a 3AW radio announcer suggested on air.

The heckler, who shouted ‘send him home’ was dealt with by the umpire and while Djokovic complained to him about the call, it didn’t distract him from his game whatsoever.

The radio announcer, a certain Mr Neil Mitchell was more specific as he attacked the fourth seed for his attitude following his victory over the local hero, Alex de Minaur, in the fourth round.

Mitchell wants Djokovic “deported again for being ungracious” when he said, after his three set victory, that he had wanted to win in straight sets. This was, Mitchell maintains, in response to De Minaur publicly supporting his deportation last year, describing Djokovic’s supporters as a ‘circus’!

Djokovic allegedly told the Serbian media that he had no relationship with De Minaur, adding: “He showed in 2022 what he thinks of me.”

Since that incident 12 months ago, Djokovic has been received warmly by Aussies wherever though his opponents on court might well have a different opinion.

Rublev for instance, couldn’t use his main weapon, the forehand, to make any impression on the Djokovic game as he struggled from the opening moment with his serve.

After saving break point in the second game, the Russian seemingly had no game plan to disrupt the rhythm of Djokovic’s game as the nine-time champion took advantage of a series of errors while neutralising Rublev’s power to secure a 3-1 lead.

Djokovic continued to work the angles continually forcing Rublev into errors which saw him pull ahead and capture the opening set.

Rublev started better in the second set as he managed to become more consistent on return and test Djokovic’s nerve on the big points but it was never enough.

The Russian served his best in the third set but ultimately provided no resistance as Djokovic cruised to his tenth Australian Open semi-final.

After the match, a delighted Djokovic admitted: “I cannot be happier with my tennis honestly,” he said during his on-court interview.

“I’ve been playing very solid from the back of the court and I really love playing in these conditions on this court. I’ve said it many times, I love playing here, definitely the most special court for me.

“Andrey is a great opponent, a great player, I have tons of respect for him. He has one of the biggest forehands, [and is] one of the quickest players on the tour. If I had to sum it up, in all the important moments I played my best tennis so that’s what makes me the most pleased tonight.”

Tommy Paul celebrates his victory

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Djokovic’s bid for a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title will continue on Friday when he takes on American Tommy Paul in what will be the players first ever meeting.

The unseeded Paul, currently ranked 35 in world terms, is the dark-horse in the semi-final line-up as he becomes the first American since Andy Roddick in 2009, to make the last four of the Aussie Open.

He battled for just over three hours to defeat fellow American Ben Shelton, the 20-year-old student who has been the surprise of the fortnight having never played at this level and never been out of the US.

Paul won 7-6(6) 6-3 5-7 6-4 and becomes only the third active American player to reach the last four of a grand slam after John Isner and Frances Tiafoe.

Before this year the 25-year-old had never gone beyond the third round of a major and had only won 11 matches in 13 appearances at grand slam events.

“This is my first time on this court and in the quarter finals of a slam,” Paul said afterwards.

“It’s actually Shelton’s first time leaving the States so I think he had a pretty good trip as well.

“Yesterday I was doing a couple of interviews and they were asking how I felt to be in the quarter finals. I was like ‘semi-finals sounds a little better’ so I’m pumped to be there and obviously really excited for whoever I play on Friday.

“Making it to the second weekend of a slam is everyone’s dream when they start playing tennis so I can’t believe I’m here right now.”

Paul hit a total of 32 winners against 26 unforced errors and broke his opponent three times. He was a break up in the third set before Shelton battled back to take the match into a fourth frame where Paul faltered when he had a match point on Shelton’s serve at 4-5 but regained his focus to serve it out in the next game.

“I’m really happy to get through that match, man,” he said. “There wasn’t too much rhythm in the match, but Ben’s a very tough player to play against and he’s going to be in many more matches like this, so I think everyone should be really excited for that kid.”

As things stand, Paul will definitely be the underdog when he faces Djokovic but he certainly shouldn’t be underestimated.

Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul remain the best of friends!



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