(CNN) — Novak Djokovic remains in the running for a record 22 Grand Slam titles after beating American Tommy Paul in straight sets in the Australian Open semifinals on Friday, setting up an attractive final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Serb faced a tough Paul in his 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 victory to reach his 33rd Grand Slam final.
His victory came just hours after Tsitsipas defeated Russian Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3, giving the Greek his second Grand Slam final. of his career.
The final will be an exciting encounter between the world numbers 3 and 4, with Tsitsipas seeking his first Grand Slam title and Djokovic just one match away from becoming world No. 1 again and equaling Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 titles. of Grand Slam.
Despite battling a hamstring injury in earlier rounds of the tournament, Djokovic was dominant in Melbourne, topping his last four opponents without dropping a set.
It looked like the semi-final was going to be more of the same as the 35-year-old took a 5-1 lead in the first set. But Paul fought back, breaking Djokovic’s serve twice to level the set at 5-5.
Djokovic was able to correct the skid and close the first set. As the match wore on, he showed his class as he carefully dissected his American opponent, converting seven of 11 break points.
The victory, which took Djokovic two hours and 20 minutes, leaves him on the verge of a tenth Australian Open title, a record he extends.
Djokovic said his level was “perfect” ahead of Sunday’s final.
“Of course, I’m not as fresh as at the start of the tournament, but I put a lot of hours into it in the off-season. I know what is expected and I have been in so many situations like this in my career,” he said in his on-court interview immediately after the match.
“It was a great battle, with myself and with the opponent. Long rallies, and I could feel heavy legs in the first set, but I was lucky to control my nerves. After that, I swung the ball more and I’m happy to go to another final.”
The match was the end of the road for Paul, who had surprised many by reaching the first Grand Slam semifinal of his career.
Paul, currently ranked 35th in the world, became the first American man to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2009 when he defeated compatriot Ben Shelton in the quarterfinals.
The 25-year-old is now guaranteed to climb into the world’s top 20 for the first time, having beaten top 30 players Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Roberto Bautista Agut en route to the last four.
For Tsitsipas, the final will be a chance for revenge against Djokovic.
The pair met in the 2021 French Open final, the first Grand Slam final of Tsitsipas’s career, in which Djokovic came from two sets to defeat the Greek player.
But now, just over 18 months later, the 24-year-old has a chance to avenge that heartbreaking loss and after his semi-final win against Khachanov, he said he is playing the best tennis of his career.
“I just don’t see any weaknesses or negatives in what I’m trying to do,” Tsitsipas said. “Even if it doesn’t work out, I’m very optimistic and positive about any result, and any opponent I have to face.”
“This is something that has been missing in my game. I really believe in what I am capable of producing. That is more than enough. I do it this way… I strive for it every day. It may not turn out the way I want it to, but I put 110 percent there.”
Although Khachanov briefly paused his path to the final with two match points in the third set, Tsitsipas was able to beat the Russian in three hours and 21 minutes.
And with a place at the top of the world rankings at stake, Tsitsipas said he is living a “childhood dream.”
“I like that number… It’s a Grand Slam final, I’m fighting for the number 1 spot, it’s a childhood dream to achieve that number 1 spot one day,” he said.
“I’m close. I’m happy that this opportunity comes here in Australia and not somewhere else, because this is an important place.”
Source: CNN Espanol