Aslan Karatsev’s historic fortnight at the Australian Open came to a halt today after he was beaten in straight sets by the defending champion Novak Djokovic.
The world No.1 will now advance to his 28th grand slam final after defeating Karatsev 6-3 6-4 6-2 at the Rod Laver Arena.Embed from Getty Images
It was a much more comfortable win for the Serbian, who admitted on Tuesday he was feeling “emotionally drained” after what’s been a rollercoaster of a tournament for the reigning champion.
After mounting a five-set comeback against Taylor Fritz, while simultaneously trying to manage an injury, the world No.1 then had to overcome an in-form Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev both in four sets to reach the semifinals.
“This is the best I’ve felt in the entire tournament. [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,” said Djokovic.Embed from Getty Images
And although it was a cagey start to the match with little to separate the pair over the opening seven games, it was the world No.1 who capitalised on a loose service from the Russian in the eighth game to take the first blood.
From there, Djokovic pressed again on Karatsev’s serve, returning some huge bullets from Karatsev to win a double break and claim six games off the Russian to win the second set.
Despite Karatsev breaking back with some brilliant groundstrokes, Djokovic was clinical, taking advantage of Karatsev’s service again in the final set to strike an ace down the middle of the court to secure his place in the semifinals.
"I'm proud and honoured to be playing at the same time. To see her greatness, experience her greatness is a thrill."— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
Nothing but respect from @DjokerNole to @serenawilliams 💙🙌#AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/Lo8Lil0oKD
“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.”
The Serbian holds an impressive set of stats at the Australian Open, including having won 81 out of 89 of the matches he’s played at Melbourne Park while also having never lost a final at the grand slam.
And the world No.1 explained that his almost infallable record would give him a massive confidence boost as he prepares to take on either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title.
“Of course, it contributes to more confidence coming into the finals, knowing that I have never lost in the finals or semifinals. It makes me feel more comfortable on the court.”
“For me, it has a positive effect, but it is not a decisive factor for the way in which the match is going to go forward, because as I’ve said, each year is different, the surface is different, you’re playing against also different opponents, so that’s not going to be the decisive factor on Sunday.”
“Tsitsipas and Medvedev will want to get their first grand slam titles, you know, I’m sure they’re going to do their best, so I’ll be ready for that.”
Karatsev. Gets a thumbs up from Djokovic. pic.twitter.com/2Z54amugPT— Tennis GIFs 🎾🎥 (@tennis_gifs) February 18, 2021
Meanwhile, Aslan Karatsev will shoot into the ATP top 50 after an incredible fortnight down under.
Before the tournament, not many had heard of the world No.114. But this week Karatsev has etched his name into the history books, for more than one reason.
He became the first player to reach a semifinal on their grand slam debut, recorded one of the most one-sided wins in grand slam history during his 6-0 6-1 6-0 win over Egor Gerasimov, and joined a list of illustrious names that includes John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors to become one of few qualifiers to reach a slam semifinal.
Taking down three seeded players including Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Grigor Dimitrov, Karatsev has been a force to be reckoned with this week, and will look to continue that form on the ATP Tour this season.
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