The wizard of the Australian Open, World No.1 Novak Djokovic is back in the semifinals yet again at Melbourne Park as he chases his 18th Grand Slam and the ninth Australian Open title. In a topsy-turvy affair against Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinal, the 33-year-old Serb showed enough resilience and firepower to overcome the young German 6-7(6) 6-2 6-4 7-6(6) in a three-hours and 30 minutes contest of high-octane drama that had everything to offer, including the defending champion destroying a racquet in the fifth game of the third set.
With the exception of the second set, Djokovic was slow to move off the blocks in either of the three sets. But as he mostly does, held his nerve, played the big points clinically, and recovered brilliantly to advance to his ninth semifinal Down Under.
Australian Open Semifinal Preview
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev
In the upcoming semifinal, the Serbian will lock horns against a little-known qualifier from Russia. Aslan Karatsev has had a remarkable journey so far at this year’s Australian Open. The World No. 114, making his debut in the main draw of any Grand Slam tournament, stunned the likes of Diego Schwartzman, Felix Augur-Aliassime, and Grigor Dimitrov in his monumental run at Melbourne Park. He will now play the most significant match of his career so far as he takes on Djokovic for a dream spot in the final.
It is true that Karatsev benefitted from Dimitrov’s injury in the quarterfinal as the Bulgarian could barely move in the third and fourth sets owing to back spasms. That does not take anything away from the Russian hopeful, and he would aim to play with absolute freedom and enjoy each and every moment on the court as he has nothing to lose.
The World No.1 typically cruises through his earlier rounds with relative ease Down Under. He seemed to be under a spot of bother this time around as he struggled to get past Taylor Fritz in the third round, needing five sets to overcome the stern resistance of the American. The abdominal injury that the Serb apparently picked up during his five-set thriller against Fritz has been bothering him since then. However, he managed to play through the pain against Milos Raonic and Zverev in his subsequent clashes, and is just two victories away from claiming an unprecedented ninth title.
In the upcoming semifinal on Rod Laver Arena, Karatsev will have a mountain to climb as he takes on Djokovic. Meanwhile, the Serb faces the challenge of an unknown opponent altogether. Going into the semifinal, the eight-time champion would hope that his body holds up in good shape, especially after a mentally and physically draining quarterfinal win over Zverev.
The 17-time Major champion has never lost at Melbourne once he has reached the semis. Against the little-known Karatsev, he starts as a heavy favorite. However, Djokovic cannot afford to be complacent, especially as he would be up against an unfamiliar opponent. Also, he would ideally hope to get over the line as early as possible in the semifinal, to give himself more time to rest and recover before Sunday’s final.
The pressure of expectations and records is on Djokovic’s shoulders, but the pressure and the magnitude of the occasion can get to Karatsev. It will be intriguing to witness how the young Russian holds up his nerves and composure against the mighty Serb in the first Australian Open semifinal match.