Fixture: (1) Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev
Date: 18 February 2021
Tournament: Australian Open 2021
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: AUD $80 million
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | India - Sony Six
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev preview
Novak Djokovic, the top seed at the 2021 Australian Open, has made it to his ninth semifinal in Melbourne. Remarkably, every time the Serb has made it to the last four Down Under, he has walked away with the trophy.
Djokovic looked in top form in his initial matches of the 2021 tournament, but the World No. 1 has struggled with injury in the last few rounds.
The Serb was in severe pain during his intense five-set encounter with Taylor Fritz in the third round, but managed to fight through to win the match. He also beat two quality opponents - Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev - in four sets each to make the semifinal once again.
But Djokovic is still not at his 100%, as he revealed after the match against Zverev.
"There’s too many injuries," the 33-year-old said. "I’m just hoping that this is all temporary so that we can go back to what we are used to without interruptions of practice."
Meanwhile Aslan Karatsev, who faces Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, is on a dream run at the moment. The Russian qualifier, ranked 114th in the world, has defied all the odds to make it to the last four in Melbourne.
Karatsev has beaten three players seeded inside the top 20 - Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov - to make the semifinals. The Russian will be hoping to go one better on Thursday, but the enormity of the task before him cannot be overstated.
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev head-to-head
Unsurprisingly, Novak Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev have not faced off on tour before. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 0-0.
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev prediction
While Novak Djokovic has managed to soldier through the last three matches, he is clearly far from his best. The Serb has been serving well in the tournament, but he has been trying to win quick points to avoid pushing himself too much.
Djokovic looked almost too assertive, to the point of recklessness, against Zverev at times. He even made an uncharacteristically huge amount of errors - 56 - in the match.
But as he often does, the World No. 1 was able to elevate his game in the high-pressure moments.
The fact that Aslan Karatsev has not met Novak Djokovic before might give the Russian a slight advantage. He has exhibited a strong baseline game so far in the tournament, hitting the ball with tremendous power, and has also looked unfazed by the unfamiliarity of the big stage.
But to beat Djokovic in the semifinals of the Australian Open, Karatsev will have to keep going for big shots and keep finding the lines. That has historically proven to be an impossible task for every single player against Djokovic at this stage of the tournament.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in four sets.