Novak Djokovic has reached an unprecedented ninth Australian Open final with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Aslan Karatsev on Thursday. After the match, Djokovic claimed that he was finally pain-free after the injury he picked up last week, and that his movement was no longer restricted.
“The is the best I have felt in the entire tournament," the Serb said. "I could swing through the ball. No pain. I am thrilled to feel this way. Just the best match so far, came at the right time."
"I had to stretch myself to the limit in the last five days," he added. "The way I felt (physically) surpassed my greatest wishes, but I did have similar experiences where I did manage to recover pretty quickly. I didn't think that I would play without pain and I did."
Novak Djokovic suffered a right oblique strain in his third-round encounter against Taylor Fritz, and his play was a little compromised against Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev in his subsequent matches. The World No. 1 had also suggested he was considering retiring midway through the third-round match, and that he wouldn't have played his fourth-round match if this wasn't a Grand Slam.
But now everything seems back on track for Novak Djokovic. During his post-match interview the Serb gave out a few details about how he plans to recover ahead of the final, and that he won't be skipping practice the way he has been doing the last few days.
"I have two days now," Djokovic said. "I will talk to the team and evaluate. I will definitely train one of the two days, most like Saturday. Recovery is the priority. I am feeling the ball well. I have had enough match play."
"I'm going to take the popcorn and enjoy it" - Novak Djokovic on the Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Daniil Medvedev SF
Novak Djokovic also showered praise on his opponent Aslan Karatsev, who was ranked 114th in the world before arriving in Melbourne. The Serb congratulated the Russian on his journey and suggested that Karatsev's incredible run was now part of tennis history.
Aslan Karatsev beat the likes of Felix Auger-Aliassime, Grigor Dimitrov and Diego Schwartzman to reach the last four in Melbourne. The whole tennis community has been in awe of Karatsev's achievement, who will now climb to a career-high ranking of #42.
"We need to give him a hand," Djokovic said. "Huge congratulations to him, he has made the semifinals (from qualifying), I never thought I would see that in history."
Novak Djokovic was also asked how he felt about the second semifinal, which will pit an in-form Daniil Medvedev against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals on Wednesday after coming back from a two-sets-to-love deficit.
The Serb had a simple response to the question: that he would sit back and watch the drama unfold.
"I'm going to take the popcorn and enjoy it," Djokovic said.
The eight-time Australian Open champion has compiled a 16-0 win-loss record in the last two rounds of the tournament, meaning that he has never lost a semifinal or final in Melbourne. Needless to say, Djokovic is the firm favorite to lift the trophy on Sunday no matter who he faces.