MELBOURNE (AUSTRALIA) – Defending champion Novak Djokovic defeated Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev with his “best match” of the tournament on Thursday.
The world number one eased into the finals at Melbourne Park with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win under the lights at Rod Laver Arena and will battle either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev for the title.
“This is the best I felt during the entire tournament,” he told Jim Courier on court.
“Felt great, I could swing through the ball, no pain, just best match so far, and it came at the right time and I’m thrilled to feel this way.
Djokovic has never failed to win the tournament after making the semi-finals and he will be heavily favoured to claim a record-extending ninth title at his favourite Slam on Sunday.
Karatsev would have been regarded one of Djokovic’s more unlikely semi-final opponents, broke him twice in the match and came back from 5-1 down in the second set to briefly rattle the Serb.
Karatsev saved two set points as Djokovic served at 5-4, and swung freely to prise two break points from the champion.
Djokovic fired two huge serves to cancel the threats before sealing the set and took the momentum into the third as he broke Karatsev in the opening game.
Karatsev rallied again to level to 2-2 but a long tournament appeared to take its toll as Djokovic raced away and sealed the match with an ace.
“We need to give him a hand. Huge congratulations to him,” Djokovic said of the 27-year-old Karatsev, who reached the main draw of a major for the first time after failing to qualify at nine previous Grand Slams.
“On his debut he reached semi-finals, I don’t think it’s ever happened in the history of tennis, so well done to him. He played a great tournament.”