Novak Djokovic is through to a ninth Australian Open final after a comprehensive straight-sets win over Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.
The world No 1, who has won the title on each of the eight previous occasions he has reached the semi-finals in Melbourne, beat the world No 114 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
It was a much-needed comfortable evening for Djokovic after suffering an abdominal injury in the third-round five-setter against Taylor Fritz and a nail-biting victory over Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
"We need to give him (Karatsev) a hand, huge congratulations on reaching the semi-finals on his debut - I don't think it's ever happened in the history of tennis," Djokovic said.
"This is the best I have felt in the tournament, I felt great, could swing through the ball, no pain. Best match so far, it came at the right time and I am thrilled to feel this way.
"I have two days now, I will see, talk to the team and evaluate. I will definitely train one of the days, probably Saturday, but recovery is priority now. I have had enough match play, enough practice so it is gathering enough energy for the most important match of the Australian Open."
The 27-year-old Russian, who will rocket into the top 50 having never previously been inside the top 100, was far from overwhelmed against Djokovic but he discovered just why the Serbian is renowned as arguably the greatest defensive player the game has seen.
He began very well, showing no nerves in by far the biggest match of his career, but a loose game allowed Djokovic to break for 5-3 and that was the first set gone.
The world number one looked in complete control of the second but there were signs he was still not feeling totally confident physically as he took his foot off the pedal and back came Karatsev.
The Russian retrieved another break at the start of the third set but Djokovic forged ahead again and completed the victory after an hour and 53 minutes.
Thanks for joining us.
Well that wasn't as eventful as yesterday with Tsitsipas and Nadal but nonetheless, Djokovic is looking in great shape.
Tomorrow we will learn Djokovic's opponent as Tsitsipas takes on Medvedev. Join us for that showdown on Friday morning.
'This is the best I've felt in the entire tournament. I felt great. I could swing through the ball. No pain.
"Just the best match so far. It came at the right time. I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled to feel this way."
Well played Karatsev
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 Karatsev
Djokovic double fault, 15-15. Djokovic ace, two match points. Another ace. GAME. SET. MATCH.
Djokovic ends Karatsev's run and sets up a final against either Medvedev or Tsitsipas.
Djokovic 6-3, 6-4, 5-2 Karatsev*
Karatsev starts the game with an ace. But he nets a forehand, 15-30. Djokovic backhand wide, 30-30.
Karatsev backhand long, break point Djokovic. Karatsev's forehand goes wide and Djokovic breaks again.
He is one game away from the final.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-4, 4-2 Karatsev
The fans on Rod Laver Arena want a game and Karatsev is doing his best to provide. He goes big with his forehand and gets the error from Djokovic, 30-15.
But Djokovic responds with a determined point and Karatsev goes long, 40-15. Djokovic nets a forehand, 40-30.
Djokovic ace to consolidate the break.
Djokovic 6-3, 6-4, 3-2 Karatsev*
Karatsev nets a forehand, 15-15. Djokovic forehand winner, 15-30.
A backhand to backhand rally ends with Karatsev losing control and making a backhand error, two break points.
And Djokovic breaks again as Karatsev nets a forehand on the stretch.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-4, 2-2 Karatsev
Djokovic goes long with a backhand, 15-15. Karatsev forehand winner, 15-30.
Great tennis from Karatsev and he gets the error from Djokovic, two break points.
Boom. The ball sits up and Karatsev cracks another forehand winner, He breaks back.
Djokovic 6-3, 6-4, 2-1 Karatsev*
Karatsev does well to stand up to Djokovic and an ace, his fifth of the ace, gives him the game.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-4, 2-0 Karatsev
Djokovic stamps his authority on the match with a hold to 15.
That drop in level towards the end of the second set is gone.
Third Set: Djokovic 6-3, 6-4, 1-0 Karatsev*
Problems for Karatsev as he shanks a forehand, 0-30. He then goes long with a backhand, three break points.
He saves the first. But he's broken when an attempted forehand clips the net and drops wide.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-4 Karatsev
No mistakes from Djokovic in this game as he races to 40-15. A prolonged rally sees Karatsev get the upper hand and it draws the error from Djokovic.
Stunning 32 shot rally. It ends with a deft drop shot from Karatsev which catches out Djokovic, deuce.
Karatsev forehand return winner. Wow. Break point for the Russian. Big Djokovic first serve, deuce.
Djokovic nets a backhand, a second break point for Karatsev. Djokovic ace.
Karatsev return goes long, set point Djokovic. And he comes through after Karatsev's forehand goes long.
Djokovic 6-3, 5-4 Karatsev*
Karatsev goes long with a backhand, 15-15. More good fortune for Djokovic as another backhand hits the tape and drops Karatsev's side.
Big first serve from Karatsev and a fist pump. He then hits a backhand winner up the line, 40-30.
Djokovic hits an outrageous forehand winner, deuce. Ace from Karatsev. And he holds when Djokovic goes long with a backhand.
Djokovic* 6-3, 5-3 Karatsev
Djokovic forehand flies long, 30-30. Djokovic double fault, break point for Karatsev, his first of the match.
Karatsev is into the rally but puts a forehand wide, deuce. He gets another chance as Karatsev hits a forehand winner down the line.
And he does break as Djokovic nets a backhand. Huge applause from the crowd.
Djokovic 6-3, 5-2 Karatsev*
Djokovic nets a forehand return, 15-15. Plenty of support for Karatsev in the crowd as he hits a backhand winner and then an ace, 40-15.
Djokovic goes long with a backhand and Karatsev holds.
Djokovic* 6-3, 5-1 Karatsev
Djokovic is moving through the gears and Karatsev can't keep up. The world No 1 is putting on a show.
He holds to love.
Djokovic 6-3, 4-1 Karatsev*
Karatsev has made 18 unforced errors compared to one from Djokovic.
Djokovic races to three break points. And gets a slice of luck which he doesn't really need as his backhand hits the tape and drops on Karatsev's side.
Djokovic* 6-3, 3-1 Karatsev
More perfection from Djokovic as he drills a backhand winner down the line, 40-0.
Karatsev does well to reach a Djokovic drop shot and flick a forehand winner down the line. He then hits a cross-court backhand winner.
And Djokovic holds when Karatsev's backhand flies wide.
Djokovic 6-3, 2-1 Karatsev*
Karatsev goes wide with a forehand on the opening point. Djokovic then rifles a cross-court backhand pass, 0-30.
Great return by Djokovic and it draws the error from Karatsev. Three break points. The Russian double faults.
Djokovic breaks and takes a commanding lead in the match.
Djokovic* 6-3, 1-1 Karatsev
It has been a while since Karatsev made an impression on Djokovic's serve and the Serbian holds to 15 again.
Second Set: Djokovic 6-3, 0-1 Karatsev*
Karatsev gets back on track with a love hold.
Djokovic* 6-3 Karatsev
The perfect game from Djokovic as he holds to love. Karatsev started strongly but unsurprisngly Djokovic took charge.
Djokovic 5-3 Karatsev*
Karatsev forehand long and then a backhand long. His first dip of the set and he's now given Djokovic three break points.
He goes long with another backhand and Djokovic breaks. Djokovic weathered a storm and is now serving for the set.
Djokovic* 4-3 Karatsev
Karatsev is bringing the best out of Djokovic, who is having to defend and counter punch.
The world No 1 holds to 30.
Djokovic 3-3 Karatsev*
A chance for Djokovic as he gets to 0-30. Karatsev ups the ante and gets the backhand error from Djokovic, 15-30.
Then hits a forehand winner after a big serve. A series of big forehands from Karatsev gets him ahead.
And he holds with a drive backhand winner. So impressive from teh Russian.
Djokovic* 3-2 Karatsev
Big Karatsev forehand down the line is too hot for Djokovic, 30-30. Karatsev gets an opening but puts a forehand just wide, 40-30.
A roar from Djokovic as he holds when Karatsev's backhand return flies long.
Djokovic 2-2 Karatsev*
Karatsev ace, 30-0. Brilliant from the Russian in a cat and mouse battle with Djokovic and he finishes with a volley winner, 40-0.
Djokovic forehand winner down the line, 40-30. Karatsev holds again to maintain his positive start.
Djokovic* 2-1 Karatsev
Djokovic puts a backhand wide on the opening point, 0-15. He responds with two big serves to go 30-15 in front but Karatsev hits a blistering forehand winner on the run, 30-all.
Djokovic ace, 40-30. Karatsev nets a backhand and Djokovic holds.
Djokovic 1-1 Karatsev*
Karatsev gets his first point of the match with a big serve down the T, 15-15.
And he settles into the game nicely with a hold to 15.
First Set: Djokovic* 1-0 Karatsev (*denotes server)
Djokovic holds to love in the opening game. Two aces included as well. Fast start by the world No 1.
The players are out
Djokovic loses the toss but Karatsev put him into serve. Five minute warm-up is underway...
Tim Henman on Karatsev
"It’s an amazing story and you think about the qualifying being played in a different venue in Doha, he was a set all in the first round [of qualifying], and then he has just played incredible tennis.
"He dealt with some difficult moments, he talked about his nerves, he talked about the heat out there, he obviously got a bit of luck with Dimitrov getting injured with the back, but his personality seems very calm, he wants to keep going.
"He’s not getting carried away, it was interesting to hear him talk about the heat, it is pretty hot out there but he’s got time to recover and he’s going to need to because the next match will be a huge, huge one – it’s an impressive run."
Karatsev's road to the semis
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 18, 2021
Djokovic's road to the semis
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 18, 2021
A place in the final awaits
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the first men's semi-final of the Australian Open between Novak Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev.
Djokovic comes into the match as the overwhelming favourite to reach Sunday's final but Karatsev has enjoyed a dream tournament so far and could pose a challenge to the world No 1.
"I have not seen him play honestly before the Australian Open. I have seen him play during the tournament here, and he impressed me, impressed a lot of people," Djokovic said ahead of Thursday's semi-final meeting. "His movement, his firepower from baseline. Flat backhand, Russian school, great backhand. Looks to run around. Also hits some good forehands, dictate the play.
"And he is impressive. I mean, two sets down against Felix coming back. Today as well he was just very solid against Grigor. Unfortunately, and obviously Grigor couldn't play at his best from the end of that second, beginning of the third.
"But he's there for a reason, and congratulate him for great success. It's going to be our first encounter. Hoping I can be physically fit and looking forward to it.
"It's his first semi-finals of Grand Slam, so obviously for him it's biggest success he has had so far. As I said, he doesn't have anything to lose, really. He's motivated.
"I expect him to come out and really go for his shots and try his best and try to take that win. So I'm sure he's enjoyed his Australian Open."
Karatsev has enjoyed a memorable run, coming through qualifying then beating Gianluca Mager, Egor Gerasimov, Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov to get through to the last four
The Russian had never got past the third round at a Slam before this tournament having last done so at the French Open last year.
He has also never played any of the 'Big Three' of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.