Saturday, February 27, 2021

Novak Djokovic beats Aslan Karatsev to reach ninth Australian Open final

Novak Djokovic beats Aslan Karatsev to reach ninth Australian Open final

Novak Djokovic has reached his ninth Australian Open final, ending the fairytale run of Russian Aslan Karatsev in the process.

Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 against Karatsev, who reached the semi-finals in his maiden outing in the main draw of a grand slam tournament after going through qualifying.

Despite his impressive form, the world number 114 was no match for Djokovic, who is aiming to extend his perfect run in Australian Open finals and win his 18th major overall.

If Djokovic wins the final on Sunday night, when he will play fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, it will be the Serb’s third straight Australian Open title.

It only took an hour and 53 minutes for Djokovic to end Karatsev’s tournament, in what was his shortest match of the tournament since round one.

The world number one said the abdominal injury that had troubled him in previous rounds was feeling OK.

“It’s as [good] as I’ve felt in the entire tournament. Felt great. I could swing through the ball. No pain. Just the best match so far,” he said.

“Came at the right time and I’m just thrilled to feel this way, for sure.”

Aslan Karatsev stands and looks confused during an Australian Open tennis match against Novak Djokovic.
Karatsev’s first major campaign was ended by a man in his 63rd.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Karatsev will leave Australia having almost tripled his win tally at the top level, having only won three ATP Tour matches in six years prior to the Open and winning five, including upsets over eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, en route to the final four.

But Djokovic was a step up in class and Karatsev’s all-or-nothing approach cost him.

The powerful 27-year-old sprayed 13 unforced errors to Djokovic’s one in the first set and the top seed was relentless, winning 12 of the last 13 points in the opener.

He went up a double break of serve to take a 5-1 lead in the second set before Karatsev threatened to mount a comeback with a break of his own, but Djokovic served it out when he got another chance.

The 33-year-old looked ready to run away with the match when he went up a break and 2-0 in the final set, but Karatsev refused to go away, breaking back and getting back to parity before Djokovic rattled of four straight games to close it out.

“There is a huge level, I mean the difference is really big,” Karatsev said of stepping up to play one of the game’s all-time greats.

“He doesn’t give you free points. On my serve it’s like every point you have to take, you have to play the rally.”

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