Novak Djokovic had to fight through an opening-set swoon as he held on to defeat Tommy Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 on Friday to reach the Australian Open final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Serb who is now one win away from record 10th title at Melbourne Park, had more than he might have expected from the 35th-ranked American who somehow found himself in a Grand Slam semi against all odds.
Djokovic had to battle not to let a 5-1 lead in the first set slip away,, barely holding on to complete a 7-5 rescue mission.
He had a massive 24 unforced errors in the opening set but quickly cleaned up his game.
The Serb then steadied but still had to work to go through to reach a 10th final here.
Djokovic has won his last 27 matches here, breaking the streak of Andre Agassi’s (26) set in 2000-04. Djokovic last lost in Melbourne in 2018 to Hyeon Chung.
He will play his 33rd final at a Grand Slam, winning 21 of them to trail the all-time best 22 of Rafael Nadal.
The 35-year-old stand a perfect 10-0 in Melbourne semi-finals and has gone on to win the trophy every time he has reached the last four at the Open.
He moved into a record-extending 33rd Grand Slam men’s singles final as a result of his win in just under two and a half hours.
“I’m not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament but I still have enough gas in my legs to play at this level,” the winner said.
“Experience helps in these matches, but on court moment to moment, point to point, its a battle with yourself and the opponent.
“Neither of us had much time between points and we both had heavy legs in the first set.
“But I held my nerve towards the end of the set and started swinging through the ball more.
. “I’m just really pleased to get to the final,” he said on the 15th anniversary of his first Grand Slam title here over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“I could have never imagined how things would turn out, I’m trying to cherish every moment.
The final with Stefanos will be all business – let the better payer win.”
Tsitsipas was keeping his chance for a first Grand Slam trophy in perspective after his semi-final defeat of Karen Khachanov 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3.
“This is a very humbling opportunity for me,” the Greek third seed said after victory in nearly three and a half hours.
“Being in the finals here means a lot. Having started here as one of my first junior Grand Slams, and being now in the finals of the men’s event, is as important as my very first steps that I took on the tennis court.
‘I’m going to grasp this opportunity and get myself ready for this big day.”
Should he upset Djokovic on Sunday, Tsitsipas would move to the No. 1 ATP ranking for a first time.
“I remember watching it (Open final) on TV saying to myself, ‘I want to be there one day myself. I want to recreate that feeling for me.’
” I knew that’s a very long journey to get there. There are certain steps you have to take to give yourself the chance to be competing for something like this ”
Coming in, Djokovic has won their last eight meetings, including their latest at the ATP Finals two months ago in Turin.
He also defeated Tsitsipas from two sets to love down in the 2021 Roland Garros final, most recent of their two matches at the majors.
Main photo:- Australian Open 2023 Novak Djokovic wins semi final match by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd