Novak Djokovic stays in hunt for La Decima at Australian Open despite meltdown, tantrum, unforced errors galore

Novak Djokovic celebrates Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic celebrates Credit: Alamy

The scoreline suggests Novak Djokovic claimed an easy win over Tommy Paul in the semi-final of the Australian Open, but it was a bizarre match and not quite straightforward.

The history books will report that Djokovic won the match 7-5, 6-1, 6-2, but there were many twists and turns in that two-hour, 20-minute encounter on Rod Laver Arena.

Make no mistake, Djokovic was the dominant player and deserved his victory, but the unseeded Paul also played his part and he had his moments to really take the match to the nine-time Australian Open champion.

In the end Djokovic cruised over the finish line and kept his hopes of a 10th Australian Open trophy, a 22nd Grand Slam title and the world No 1 ranking alive.

Djokovic was quick out of the blocks as he broke in game two and raced into a 4-1 lead, but he then had words with the chair umpire and also shouted at his player’s box as he started to lose focus.

The former world No 1 said: “Why did you start the clock? I haven’t got to the towel yet… No you know, you have to get to the towel.”

Chair umpire: “That’s not the way it works.”

Djokovic: “The ball kids are not allowed to give me the towel. Tell me how it works. It’s the first time I’m going to the towel this game and you start the clock before I touch the towel. Well done.”

It still went according to plan as he broke again for a 5-2 lead, but then the match turned on its head as he started producing unforced error after unforced error.

Paul broke in games seven and nine to get back on serve, but it proved to be in vain as the world No 5 got another crucial break in game 12 to wrap up the set, but it came with 24 unforced errors.

The American was again broken in game two of the second set, but he then had three chances to break back immediately and, after failing to capitalise, Djokovic got another break for a 4-0 lead.

This time there was no comeback from Paul and the third set turned into a processing with Djokovic breaking twice again for a solid victory.

He did so despite 39 unforced errors, including five double faults, compared to 31 winners while Paul made 32 unforced errors and hit 18 winners.

He will face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated Karen Khachanov in four sets, in the final on Sunday and the winner will walk away with the Australian Open trophy as well as the world No 1 ranking.

Djokovic, meanwhile, will also tie Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 for most Grand Slam wins if he is the last man standing.

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