Australian Open: Novak Djokovic Beats Tommy Paul, Tsitsipas Sees Off Khachanov
Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic steamrolled another opponent as he beat Tommy Paul to set up an Australian Open final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Serbia’s Djokovic, 35, overcame a wobble in the opening set, re-establishing his authority to earn a 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over the American.
Tsitsipas, 24, has another chance to land his first Grand Slam title after beating Russian Karen Khachanov.
Greek third seed Tsitsipas won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 against Khachanov.
Tsitsipas lost to Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and now has the opportunity to avenge that loss in his first appearance in the Australian Open showpiece.
But to lift the trophy on Sunday, he must become the first player to beat 35-year-old Djokovic at Melbourne Park since 2018.
Djokovic, who beat Paul to set a new landmark of 27 consecutive wins, is aiming for a record-extending 10th title which would equal Rafael Nadal’s tally of 22 major men’s titles.
Tsitsipas, who will become the world number one if he wins the title, eventually booked his place after recovering from Khachanov saving two match points in the third-set tie-break.
Another tight forehand saw a third chance disappear in what proved to be the final game, before he regained his composure to convert his fourth when a first serve was batted long by the 18th seed.
Asked what he was thinking when the match went into a fourth set, Tsitsipas said: “I thought about how hard I’ve worked to get to this position.
“But if you stick around, dedicate yourself even more, and concentrate even more in the important moments it pays off.”
Tsistipas feeling at home in Melbourne
At a tournament with a hard-court surface on which he thrives, and in a city where he is warmly backed by its large Greek population, Tsitsipas has long appeared destined for success at the Australian Open.
The towering youngster announced his arrival there with a famous 2019 win over defending champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, only for a captivating run to be ended when he was crushed by Rafael Nadal in his first semi-final appearance.
Long-time rival Daniil Medvedev ended his dreams at the last-four stage in both 2021 and 2022, with another Russian – this time, the powerful Khachanov – standing in his way this time.
Backed by a vocal crowd who waved Greek flags after virtually all of his winning points, Tsitsipas started confidently against a player who he had beaten in all of their five previous encounters.
Khachanov could not cope with Tsitsipas’ pounding groundstrokes and dynamic athleticism as the world number four moved two sets ahead.
When Tsitsipas broke early in the third set and moved into a 5-4 lead which left him serving for the match, few on Rod Laver Arena expected anything other than a straight-set win.
However, nerves kicked in for Tsitsipas, who suddenly looked unsure with his groundstrokes, and Khachanov cut loose to extend the contest.
After a bathroom break before the fourth set, Tsitsipas returned free of the weight of expectation and broke Khachanov’s serve at the first opportunity.
Dominant service games from that point ensured there would be no repeat of the previous set as he finally reached the final of what he calls his “home” Grand Slam event.
“I feel blessed for the fact I’m able to play tennis at this level and for many years I’ve wanted to put Greek tennis on the map – Maria [Sakkari] and I have done that, I think,” Tsitsipas said.
“Coming from a small country like Greece I feel so grateful I get support like this.
“I never thought I would be treated so well here so I’m extremely happy I’m in the final now – let’s see what happens.”
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