Novak Djokovic survived a brief scare from first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Tommy Paul on Friday (January 27) before beating the American 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 to reach his 10th Australian Open final.
In the pair's first meeting, Djokovic made an uncharacteristically nervy start, surviving two break points in the opening game to open up a 3-0 lead. The American got on the scoreboard in the fourth game, but there was no relenting from Djokovic, who effected a double break to serve for the set. At 5-1, 30-0, Djokovic was in cruise control before Paul won the next two points to give the nine-time winner something to think about.
The 35-year-old responded with an ace to arrive at set point but miscued a forehand. Djokovic engaged with chair umpire Damien Dumusois after that for starting the shot clock while he was still wiping sweat off his brow, and that clearly rattled the Serb.
Two points later, Paul retrieved one of the breaks back and promptly produced a love hold to put the pressure on Djokovic. Down 15-30 on serve, the Serb produced his 20th unforced error of the set to give his opponent two break points. Paul converted the second and held serve to make it five games apiece.
Djokovic, though, stopped the rot with a love hold before breaking Paul to 30 to pocket a dramatic 59-minute opener. Riding his momentum, the Serb held serve to open the second set before breaking Paul. Djokovic survived three break points and broke again to lead 4-0. Paul then snapped a seven-game losing streak, but the Serb duly opened up a two-set lead.
With his first set implosion now a distant memory. Djokovic opened the third with a break and dropped only two games to extend his perfect Australian Open semifinal record to 10-0. In the process, he became the first male player to win 27 straight matches at the Australian Open in the Open Era.
Novak Djokovic is now one win away from tying all-time men's Grand Slam leader Rafael Nadal (22). The Serb will take on Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final on Sunday.
La Decima and return to World No. 1 beckons Novak Djokovic on Sunday
After beating Tommy Paul, Novak Djokovic will now look to extend his perfect 9-0 record in Australian Open finals. This will make him only the second male player (Roger Federer at the Swiss Indoors being the first) to win a hardcourt tournament 10 times or more, but the first to do so at a Grand Slam.
He holds a commanding 10-2 head-to-head lead over Tsitsipas, winning the pair's last nine clashes. That includes both their two Grand Slam meetings - Roland Garros 2020 semifinal and 2021 final - with Djokovic triumphing in five sets on both occasions.
Interestingly, both finalists are in the running to become World No. 1, which they will do so by winning the title, and displace current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. While Novak Djokovic spent his record-extending 373rd week at No. 1 back in 2022, Tsitsipas is looking to become the 29th man to ascend to the top of the ATP rankings.
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