Sat, Jan 26, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Perfect Djokovic crushes Pouille

FLAWLESS DISPLAY:Tomorrow, the Serbian top seed lines up against his old rival second seed Rafael Nadal for the eighth time in a Grand Slam final

AP, MELBOURNE

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns to Lucas Pouille of France in their Australian Open men’s singles semi-final in Melbourne yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Every reverberating squeak of Novak Djokovic’s court-blue shoes put him in perfect position to control a point — and a step closer to a record seventh Australian Open title.

Djokovic yesterday was downright flawless right from the outset of his semi-final against an overmatched No. 28 Lucas Pouille and never relented, not for a moment, en route to a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 victory in 1 hour, 23 minutes.

Of all the ways in which Djokovic dominated, perhaps this was the most impressive: He made an unheard-of total of five unforced errors and that is despite risking enough to produce 24 winners.

“Everything worked the way I imagined it before the match,” Djokovic said. “And even more so.”

Tomorrow, top seed Djokovic lines up against his old rival, second seed Rafael Nadal, for the 53rd time on the ATP Tour and the eighth in a Grand Slam final.

“I would definitely want to buy a ticket for that match, for those who haven’t yet,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview at Rod Laver Arena.

Only Nadal, with 17, and Roger Federer, with 20, own more major titles than Djokovic, who is gaining on them: He is seeking his 15th overall and third in a row, following Wimbledon in July last year and the US Open in September.

Djokovic holds a 27-25 lead in the head-to-head series with Nadal, but Nadal leads 4-3 in major finals.

The only other time they met with the Australian Open trophy on the line, in 2012, Djokovic won 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 in 5 hours, 53 minutes, making it the lengthiest Grand Slam title match in history.

“Once-in-a-lifetime experience and hopefully the outcome can be the same for me,” Djokovic said.

Given how well both men are playing at the moment, the showdown is shaping up as another potential classic, unlike the two semi-finals that preceded it.

Nadal was superb while beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 on Thursday and has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

A day later, Djokovic played as if setting out to say: “Anything you can do, I can do better.”

It was Djokovic’s 34th Grand Slam semi-final and he has now won his past 10.

“Definitely one of the best matches I ever had,” Djokovic said, then paused before adding the unnecessary qualifier “on this court.”

Earlier, unseeded pair Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai took the women’s doubles title.

The Australian-Chinese pair battled past Hungarian-French second seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic — last year’s champions — 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.

“Today, it is a dream [come] true for me,” said Zhang, who won her first Grand Slam doubles title.

“Shuai, it is always a pleasure being on court with you, we have a great friendship,” Stosur added.

Additional reporting by AFP

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