Novak Djokovic admits he is finding his groove at the perfect time after feeling “no pain” during his straight-sets Australian Open semi-final win over Aslan Karatsev on Thursday.
The world No 1 needed just shy of two hours to seal a 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory over the Russian qualifier, and Djokovic now has two days off before Sunday’s final.
During that time, Djokovic said he will focus on recovery but also get the popcorn out for the men’s second semi-final on Friday between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, one of whom will be tasked with denying the Serbian a ninth Australian Open title.
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“This is the best I’ve felt the entire tournament. I felt great, I could swing through the ball. No pain. The best match so far, it came at the right time. I’m thrilled to feel this way,” Djokovic said on court immediately after his win over Karatsev.
“I have two days now so I’ll talk to the team. I’ll definitely train one of the days, more likely Saturday. Recovery is priority right now, I’m feeling the ball well, I’ve had enough match play and practice. Right now it’s just gathering the necessary energy for the most important match of the Australian Open.”
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On the Tsitsipas-Medvedev match-up, Djokovic added: “It’s going to be interesting to see them play, it’s always a high-intensity match between the two of them. Both are playing great, I’m going to take the popcorn and enjoy it. I have absolutely zero preference.”
Djokovic had an injury scare earlier in the tournament, applying tape to his abdominals amid fears of a tear, but he put those problems firmly behind him on Thursday.
The semi-final was tightly contested to begin with, but from 4-3 on serve Djokovic turned the screw, breaking Karatsev before serving to take the opening set 6-3.
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Djokovic broke twice in the second before surviving a fightback to take a commanding lead, and come the third set the eight-time champion in Melbourne broke three times and continued to impress on serve, finishing the match with two of his overall 17 aces.
He told Eurosport’s Cube: “I think this was the best performance I’ve had in the tournament so far, the best I felt on the court, the best I was hitting.
“I expected him to play on a high level. I’ve seen him play against high-ranked opponents this tournament, he played great. He just strikes the ball so well and is very strong physically. He picks up most returns and plays it flat, you’ve got to be ready and I think I executed a game-plan and the tactics that I setup with my coach really well.
It was an even match in the first, but he played a bit of a sloppy game at 4-3. I made him play, I mixed up the pace of the ball. I wanted him to always have a different rotation on the ball coming from my side, never know what’s coming. I didn’t want to play predictable so it worked really well.
“It came at exactly the right time, just before the most important match, and it’s going to be a tough one, either Tsitsipas or Medvedev. Both in great form, both playing terrific tennis, I’m going to enjoy watching their match tomorrow with my team, analysing, then get on the practice court before the final.
“Depending on who I play I’ll work on specific things, but the priority now is recharging the batteries, feeling recuperated for the final. I’ve had enough hits, enough practice, enough match play. I’m ready.”
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