On Friday, Novak Djokovic overcame controversy surrounding his father to advance to a record-extending 10th Australian Open final, setting up a crucial decider and a matchup with Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas for the top spot in the world rankings.
Nine-time champion Djokovic maintained his best record in the Melbourne Park semi-finals with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 win over American Tommy Paul at Rod Laver Arena, where his father Srijan was absent.
On Center Court earlier, Tsitsipas beat 18th-seeded Russian Karen-Khachanov 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 to get to the final as the first Greek player. Largest Greek community outside of a country in southern Europe.
After a video surfaced of Djokovic brandishing Russian flags with spectators who had been barred from Melbourne Park earlier in the tournament, he diverted his son’s attention before the semi-finals.
Amid criticism from local politicians and the Ukrainian embassy, he refused to attend the semi-finals, saying he wanted to avoid “disturbing” his son.
For all that, a man on the rooftops held up a Ukrainian flag as Djokovic pushed his way towards them and waved it as they traded blows.
Whether or not his father’s absence affected him, Djokovic was in a bad mood despite leading 5-1 in the first set, repeatedly shouting in Serbian at his players’ boxes.
He argued with the chair umpire about the time it took to get the towels between points, drawing loud boos from the fans.
Sensing the opportunity from him, Paul increased the pressure with excellent tennis, breaking the Serb twice and levelling the match at 5-5, outpointing Djokovic in a 30-shot rally.
However, it was as good as it was for Paul, as Djokovic won 14 of his last 17 matches in a stunning counterattack 15 years after his first Australian Open title at the age of 20.
“I’m grateful to have enough leg power to play at this level on the biggest tennis court in the world,” Djokovic said on the court. “I know these things would not be possible without my family and team.”
Tsitsipas prevented Khachanov from reaching the first final of the Australian Open.
Stefanos Tsitsipas stormed into the first final of the Australian Open with a 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 victory over Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov on Friday. , Getting closer to becoming number one in the world.
Tsitsipas, who crashed three times at the Melbourne Park semi-final stage, will face favourites Novak Djokovic or Tommy Paul for the title.
By winning his major Grand Slam title on Sunday, Tsitsipas will reclaim the number one spot from Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, who is out of the tournament due to injury.
“I want that number,” Tsitsipas said. “These are the moments I’m working hard for, to be able to play a final like this, but the final has a bigger meaning than the final itself. So it’s an important final.”
Playing in glorious sunshine at Rod Laver Arena, the 2021 French Open runner-up caused an error on Khachanov’s forehand and broke early, only to quickly deliver his serve.
The pair traded breaks again in a seesaw first set, but Tsitsipas came to life on the tiebreaker and pulled ahead in the match before coming to his nose in the second set as his opponent levelled.
Tsitsipas looked more comfortable after winning the second set despite a three-foot foul and two service violations.
The 24-year-old broke Khachanov in the third set to take a 2-1 lead, but the Russian battled back to draw the match at 5-5 before the tiebreak.
Despite receiving roars from the fans and hitting two magnificent inside-out forehands, Tsitsipas wasted two match points, allowing Khachanov to win the set.
Tsitsipas won the fourth set, 3-0, putting an elegant end to the match and securing a spot in his second Grand Slam final.
“I know it probably doesn’t matter as much to the Australians because they’ve always been producing players, and they’ve always had their fair share of top-tier players, but coming from a small country like Greece, I’m very Grateful to have found something else like this.”
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