Rampant Djokovic sets up final against Tsitsipas

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Melbourne, Jan. 28: A rampant Novak Djokovic surged into a 10th Australian Open final Friday, Jan. 27, to close in on a record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam crown, with only Stefanos Tsitsipas now standing  in his way.

The Serbian fourth seed overcame an early wobble to romp past unseeded American Tommy Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in style. Another title on Sunday will move him alongside Rafael Nadal with 22 Slam wins and see the 35-year-old return to world number one for the first time since last June.

Greek third seed Tsitsipas, who ground past Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in the other semi-final, can also become the top-ranked player should he  lift the trophy.  “I’m really thankful that I have enough gas in my legs to be able to play at this level on one of the biggest tennis courts in the world,” said Djokovic, who is now 11-0 for the season and into a 33rd Grand Slam final.

“Of course, I’m not as fresh as the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of hours in the off-season on fitness in order to be in a good condition to play best of five (sets). “I know what’s expected of me, I’ve been in this situation so many times in my career. Experience helps also,” he added of being in another final.

The win extended his unbeaten streak at the Australian Open to 27 matches to claim sole ownership of the Open-era record at Melbourne Park ahead of Andre Agassi. Djokovic had never played Paul before and said he was wary of a “very explosive, very dynamic player”, with the American initially refusing  to go quietly.

Tsitsipas dream At 24, Tsitsipas is the youngest man to reach the Melbourne final since a 23-year-old Djokovic in 2011. “I dreamed as a kid to maybe one day get to play in this court against the best players in the world,” said Tsitsipas, who is also unbeaten this season with a 10-0 record.

“I’m extremely happy that I’m in the final now and let’s see what happens.”Tsitsipas has thrived in Melbourne throughout his career after bursting on the scene at the 2019 event as a 20-year-old when he dethroned defending champion Roger Federer in the last 16.

He went on to reach the semi-finals that year and again in 2021 and 2022. He came into his clash with Khachanov brimming with confidence.Despite failing to get over the line when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, then with two match points in the tiebreak, he kept his cool to secure the win and a date with Djokovic.

Misinterpreted

Novak Djokovic hit out Friday at what he said was a “misinterpretation” of images showing his father posing at the Australian Open with a Russian flag that had Vladimir Putin’s face on it. The Serbian tennis star admitted that the controversy swirling around his father Srdjan had “got to me”, but maintained no harm was meant.

Djokovic beat Tommy Paul to seal a place in Sunday’s final and said he hoped his father would be there after skipping Friday’s semi-final. The 35-year-old Djokovic stressed that his father had “no intention whatsoever to support any war initiatives”.

“I saw as everyone else saw what happened and it was unfortunate the misinterpretation of what happened has escalated to such a high level,” Djokovic said after his semi-final. “It has got to me of course. I was not aware of it until last night. And then of course I was not pleased to see that.

“My father, my whole family, have been through several wars. As my father put in the statement, we are against the war. We will never support any violence or war,”  he added.

He said his father had been greeting fans outside Rod Laver Arena after every match he played to thank them for their support. Djokovic senior had earlier said that he would not attend the semi-final, insisting in a statement that he “wishes only  for peace”.

“I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption,” Srdjan Djokovic said, after he faced calls to be banned from the tournament. (AFP)


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