The Australian Open semifinals are locked in after Novak Djokovic emphatically took care of business on Wednesday night.
Djokovic was at his ruthless best as he took apart fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev in three sets, 6-1 6-2 6-4.
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The nine-time Australian open winner extends his unbeaten streak Down Under to 26 games, moving clear of Andre Agassi’s all-time record.
His dominating win puts the remainder of the draw on notice as he moves into his 44th career Grand Slam semi-final.
It becomes his 10th trip into the final four at the Australian Open, every time he’s advanced to this stage of the tournament he’s been the last man standing.
Fans watching on simply couldn’t believe just how far ahead the 21-time Grand Slam winner was compared to his rivals.
Rublev was the fifth seed for the Australian Open and is currently the sixth ranked men’s player on the planet but on Wednesday night inside of Rod Laver Arena he was given an absolute lesson.
It was a Novak Djokovic masterclass.
Even Djokovic was impressed by his own performance, saying after the de Minaur match, this was the best he’d played.
“I would rank it as number two,” Djokovic said. “But very close to the performance of two nights ago. Yeah, I can’t be happier with my tennis.
Honestly, I’ve been playing very solid from back of the court and really love playing in these conditions and this court. I’ve said many times, I love playing here, definitely most special court for me.”
Djokovic, who was hampered by his troublesomne hamstring throughout the night, and paid tribute to his physiotherapist, who he said “has been through hell with me this last 10 days”.
“I’ve been connected to machines more than I have been connected to anybody else or my bed or anything else really in the days off,” he said.
“I’ve tried about any bio feed back machine there is in this planet in order to get my leg ready. And it worked.
“I’m going to keep going. So you know, I miss tennis on the days off but at the same time, I think it is important to be smart and wise with the body and this is particular circumstances where it’s more important to recover and get ready for next challenge.”
He’ll now take on unseeded American Tommy Paul who defeated fellow countryman Ben Shelton in four sets. It’s the first time Paul has made the semi-final of a Grand Slam.
The second semi will see third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas take on blistering Russian Karen Khachanov in a mouthwatering contest.
On the women’s side of the draw Wimbledon champ Elena Rybankina will go up against two-time Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka.
While fifth-seeded Arya Sabalenka will take on unseeded giant killer Magda Linette.
8.20pm – Djoker fumes at heckler
A fan in attendance at Rod Laver Arena has got under the skin of Novak Djokovic during the opening set.
After going up 4-1, Djokovic had words with the chair umpire about the rowdy fan who continued to shout out.
“Every single point … Every single point you’re not reacting. Ten times already,” Djokovic bemoaned to the umpire.
Channel 9 commentator Jim Courier said the 21-time Grand Slam winner was aggravated and asking the umpire to step in.
“Was he being heckled?” Courier asked.
“He is asking the chair umpire to tell the man to be quiet. And … the chair umpire pointedly has not done that. The plot just gets a wee bit thicker.
“He wants something done about the heckler in the stand. It’s bothering him.”
The fan’s attempts to throw the Serbian off his game against Andrey Rublev didn’t work as the nine-time Australian Open winner raced away to claim the opening set 6-1 in 39 minutes.
6.30pm – Finally a Paul we can get behind
Tommy Paul is into the Australian Open semi-finals after taking care of business against Ben Shelton.
The two unseeded Americans battled it out on Rod Laver Arena with Paul claiming the 7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory.
He’ll now await the winner of Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev.
6.15pm – Djokovic conspiracy theory runs wild
The seeds of doubt surrounding Novak Djokovic’s hamstring injury continue to be planted ahead of the Serbian’s quarterfinal showdown.
After breezing through Australia’s Alex de Minaur in straight sets, the Aussie was asked whether the speculation about Djokovic’s hamstring injury was frustrating during the match.
“I don’t know. You tell me how you thought he looked out there,” he said, with a wry smile.
“Playing him, I thought he was moving pretty well, so… I don’t know.”
Those remarks raised the eyebrows of many as the conspiracy theory into his injury exploded on Wednesday.
Djokovic rallied against those suggestions. But it hasn’t stopped the theory from raging on ahead of his contest with Andrey Rublev.
“I leave the doubting to those people – let them doubt. Only my injuries are questioned,” Djokovic said.
Tennis legend Pat Cash believes the injury isn’t as bad as it was earlier in the tournament, but one moment could spell disaster.
“Just one strange move and if you are wrong-footed, or lunging, and it hasn’t quite healed 100 per cent, there is a risk,” Cash said to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Dr. Peter Larkins is giving the 21-time Grand Slam winner the benefit of the doubt, but says the bandage would be more of a reminder to be careful.
Former world numbe one Victoria Azarenka came to the defence of Djokovic as accusations he was dramatizing his injury continued.
Azarenka was repeatedly questioned after her semi-final showdown during the Australian open back in 2013.
“It was one of the worst things I have ever gone through in my professional career, the way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10.30pm at night because people didn’t want to believe me,” she told reporters.
“I actually can resonate what Novak said the other day,” she said, referencing Djokovic stating he let the doubters doubt and chose to focus on himself.
4.35pm – Semi-finalist ‘jealous’ of Aussie lockdown
Unseeded Polish star Magda Linette won through to the Australian Open semi-finals with a straight sets win over Karolina Pliskova earlier in the day, and she’s finally exactly where she wants to be.
Having never made it past the third round of a major before, Linette will play Aryna Sabalenka for a spot in the Australian Open final.
While Linette has been in all but one Australian Open main draw since 2016, it’s the one she missed that hurts the most.
In 2021, the shot at Melbourne Park went on but at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, arrivals needed to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival.
But Linette didn’t arrive in Melbourne and would have traded anything for the chance to be.
At the time, she suffered a knee injury which kept her out of the game for six months.
It look 11 weeks for her her to be diagnosed with a meniscus injury which required surgery and a five month lay off.
So while players were furious over being stuck in quarantine, Linette was going through “the most painful experience of my life”.
“Literally one day before my flight (to Australia in 2021), the pain and the uncomfortable feeling that I had came back with, like, some extra force,” she said.
“It came back, (I) did the surgery, basically next day withdrew. Had already my flight, had my hotel room.
“(I) Listened to everybody complaining about the isolation, and I was so jealous that they had to do it, because I really wanted to be there.”
3pm – Sabalenka breeze through to semis
Aryna Sabalenka has booked her spot in the final four with a demolition job against Donna Vekic.
The number five seed proved far too strong for the unseeded Croatian star who threw the contest away with a total of 13 double faults.
Sabalenka took advantage and ran away to claim the 6-3, 6-2 straights sets victory and book a spot in the semis against Magda Linette.
12.45pm – Pliskova’s nightmare capitulation
Poland’s Magda Linette is into the semi-finals after defeating Karolina Pliskova 6-2 7-5.
Pliskova fought back in the second set but handed Linette the victory with a series of double faults.
Tennis commentator Jose Morgado tweeted: “My God, these double faults from Pliskova. Scary stuff.
“That was a horrendous game from Pliskova to very likely gift the match. What a poor day she’s having.”
1.15pm – Coach puts player’s girlfriend in a headlock
Who’d want to be in a tennis player’s box?
Sebastian Korda was knocked out of the Australian Open when he became the first player to retire when trailing Karen Khachanov 7-6 6-3 3-0 in their quarter-final.
Korda had enjoyed his best ever result at a grand slam in Melbourne but a wrist injury forced him to retire hurt against Khachanov in a sour end to his tournament.
The quarter-final was a stressful match for his new coach Radek Stepanek.
The Czech former tennis star has been seriously animated in Korda’s box at the Australian Open, wearing the same yellow Nike shirt as his charge and cheering every point on.
But it all got a bit much for Stepanek in Korda’s match against Khachanov when he put Korda’s girlfriend in a friendly headlock during a tense moment.
Korda’s girlfriend, Ivana Nedved, the daughter of Czech football legend Pavel Nedved, was a fixture at his matches at Melbourne Park.
But she didn’t look overly comfortable when Stepanek put her in a choke hold.
After his five set win over Hubert Hurkacz in the fourth round, Jim Courier asked Korda what had sparked his improved form.
“I have a whole new team,” Korda said.
“I’ve got Radek Stephanek over there. I’ve got a great new couple of coaches, Radek Stepanek, Martin Stepanek. And I’ve got my beautiful girlfriend here.”
Courier followed up, asking: “What’s her name? People want to know.”
Korda said, gesturing to his box: “Ivana. She’s the pretty one over there.”
Courier quipped: “It’s definitely not Radek, we know that.”
Korda’s father Petr won the Australian Open in 1998 while representing the Czech Republic.
Korda and Nedved appear to have been dating since 2021, and the tennis star took the chance to introduce his better half to the crowd in Melbourne.
10.30am – Tomic’s classy message to Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic have been at each other’s throats for years after being friends early in their careers, but their relationship might be beginning to warm.
With Kyrgios pulling out of the Australian Open and undergoing knee surgery, his old foe posted a supportive message on Instagram after the procedure.
“Despite our differences we go way back,” Tomic said.
“Wishing (Nick) a quick recovery.
“Hope to see him back on the circuit soon.”
It comes after Kyrgios exploded on social media late last year after Tomic was snubbed by Tennis Australia and didn’t receive a wildcard for this year’s tournament, despite having previously reached the fourth round three times.
When one Twitter user suggested Tomic deserved a wildcard, Kyrgios responded: “Hahahahaha NO HE DOESN’T.”
Kyrgios previously took a swipe at Tomic in an October Instagram live, saying he wouldn’t pursue an exhibition match against him.
“TBH, don’t think I wanna make him relevant anymore,” he said.
“I’m not gonna bother with someone ranked 800 in the world.”