Rediff.com  » Sports » Aus Open PIX: Djokovic whips Rublev; meets Paul in semis

Aus Open PIX: Djokovic whips Rublev; meets Paul in semis

Last updated on: January 25, 2023 18:02 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

Novak Djokovic has now reached the last four at Grand Slams for the 44th time. He is six ahead of Rafael Nadal and only two behind his other great rival and 20-times major champion Roger Federer.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates victory over Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, at Melbourne Park, on Wednesday.

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates victory over Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, at Melbourne Park, on Wednesday. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic reached the Australian Open semi-finals, outclassing fifth seed Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Serb was simply ruthless in his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 demolition of the Russian.

 

The fourth seed, who again had his left thigh strapped, will take on American Tommy Paul in the last four on Friday.

The 25-year-old Paul, ranked No. 35, ended 20-year-old compatriot Ben Shelton's surprise run with a 7-6(8-6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory to make his first major semi-final.

Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will meet Russian Karen Khachanov in the other semi-final, also on Friday.

Djokovic, the only major champion in the men's quarter-finals, is now favourite for the title as he chases a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam.

Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic embrace at the net after their men's singles quarter-final.

IMAGE: Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic embrace at the net after their men's singles quarter-final. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

In defeating Rublev, he registered his 26th consecutive win at Melbourne Park, equalling the Open-era streak of American Andre Agassi.

It marked the 44th time that Djokovic reached the last four at the Grand Slams, leaving him six ahead of Rafael Nadal and only two behind his other great rival and 20-times major champion Roger Federer.

He targeted Rublev's forehand and second serve with venomous returns in windy conditions on Rod Laver Arena and went ahead 3-1 in the first set after the Russian fifth seed double-faulted on break-point and pulled away from there.

Novak Djokovic rushes to the net to cut off a return from Andrey Rublev.

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic rushes to the net to cut off a return from Andrey Rublev. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

After taking the lead in the match with a brilliant backhand crosscourt winner, Djokovic showed how hard he is to beat on the grandest stage despite a strapped thigh due to a hamstring issue after the fourth seed broke in the fifth game of the second set.

He played exquisitely to save a break-point in the next game and let out a huge roar before going on to double his advantage in the contest after a frustrated Rublev unloaded on his coach in the stands following another double fault.

Djokovic pounced early in the next set with Rublev appearing bereft of ideas and a seventh quarter-final defeat at a major looming, as the former number one closed out a convincing win on serve.

IMAGE: Tommy Paul is the first American man to enter the Australian Open semi-finals since Andy Roddick in 2009. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Earlier in the day, Paul became the first American man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals since Andy Roddick in 2009.

Paul held his nerve in the big points and stood up well to his 20-year-old opponent's blistering serve to reach his first Grand Slam semi. He joins John Isner and Frances Tiafoe as the only active American men to have reached the last four of a major.

"Yesterday I was doing a lot of interviews where I was asked how it feels to be in the quarters, but the semis sound better," Paul said.

"I'm pumped to be here and exited to play in the next round. Doing well in a Grand Slam is everyone's dream."

Paul took a tight first set at Rod Laver Arena in a tiebreak after a fierce forehand prompted Shelton to crash a return into the net, and the 25-year-old went up 4-2 in the next set when Shelton's booming serve cracked.

IMAGE: Tommy Paul and Ben Shilton embrace at the net after the match. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Shelton, playing in the main draw of a Grand Slam for just the second time, began to spray errors around the court and world number 35 Paul took a 2-0 lead with his fourth ace of the contest.

Shelton got back into the match by taking the third set despite being down a break at 4-3 but Paul recovered from a dip in his level to go back on the offensive in the fourth.

Cranking up the pressure on the Shelton serve, Paul got the decisive early break, though he could have gone up a double break at one point.

He missed that opportunity when his coach Brad Stine told him to expect a serve on the 'T', only for Shelton to see the signal on the big screen and fire wide for another ace.

The two players shared a chuckle about that later.

"I asked him (Stine), because I had trouble all day on breakpoints and big points and I didn't know where to lean and he screamed 'T' and I covered the 'T' but Shelton went wide," Paul said.

"I wasn't expecting that, but I'm really happy to get through that match. Ben's tough to play against and he's going to be in many matches like this."

Playing without fear, world number 89 Shelton fired 24 aces in the match, including some of the fastest serves in the tournament. But he was also hampered by 50 unforced errors.

Paul held firm from there to claim the victory and set up a last-four encounter with nine-times champion Novak Djokovic or fifth seed Andrey Rublev.

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Source: REUTERS
© Copyright 2023 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

AUSTRALIA TOUR INDIA 2023

AUSTRALIA'S TOUR OF INDIA