At the Australian Open this year, Novak Djokovic believes he has “something extra” as he gets ready to compete for a spot in the Melbourne final.
When he plays American Tommy Paul in the round of 16 on Friday, nine-time champion Novak Djokovic aims to advance to a tenth final at Melbourne Park.
Paul will play in his first Grand Slam semifinal, where he will square off against Djokovic.
Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will play Karen Khachanov earlier in the day.
When Tsitsipas of Greece faces Khachanov on Rod Laver Arena at 03:30 GMT, he will be attempting to reach his second major final; meanwhile, Khachanov has never advanced past the semifinal stage of a Grand Slam tournament.
Paul and fourth-seeded Djokovic will square off at 8:30.
Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid from Britain will compete against Maikel Scheffers and Ruben Spaargaren from the Netherlands in the wheelchair doubles final in an effort to win their fourth straight championship.
Ranah Stoiber, a fellow Brit, is competing in the junior girls’ singles semifinals.
Rybakina, who will play Sabalenka in the Melbourne final, was filmed by Djokovic’s father with Putin supporters.
“Couldn’t ask for a better circumstance,” said Djokovic.
In a year, a lot may happen. Serbia’s Djokovic missed the Australian Open a year ago because he had been expelled from the nation due to his Covid-19 vaccination status.
When we fast-forward to the present, he is still playing some of his best tennis, and his hamstring issue isn’t holding him back like it did in the tournament’s early rounds.
The 35-year-old tennis player stated, “I always strive to give my best, especially in Grand Slams, because at this stage of my career those are the tournaments that count the most.”
“But you might say that this year has a little extra, yes. You may say that it happened last year because of the injury. All I wanted was to excel.
“In Adelaide and here on Australian hard courts, I have a spotless record thus far. My game has gotten better and better. Right now, I couldn’t ask for a better circumstance.
The goal for Novak Djokovic is to make it to his 33rd Grand Slam final.
At Melbourne Park, Djokovic has never lost a semi-final match, and he has also never lost an Australian Open final match.
He is the favorite to win the tournament once more, which would tie him with Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam championships among men with 22.
With convincing victories in straight sets over Alex de Minaur and Andrey Rublev in the first two rounds, Djokovic advanced to the round of four.
Djokovic stated, “I absolutely want to play against two guys that are really good players, in form players, to beat them dominantly in three sets, something that sends a message to all my opponents remaining in the draw.
“With a game of this nature, confidence naturally increases. As the competition goes on, I feel better and better on the court. I’ve been in this position so many times in my life and career, and I’ve never lost an Australian Open semi-final match. Hopefully, that won’t change.
The man in his way is 25-year-old Paul, who is unfazed by the prospect of playing Djokovic for the first time despite never having advanced past the fourth round of a Slam before to this competition.
“This will be a difficult game. It’s a nice time, but I’m also playing some of my greatest tennis,” he added.
Since Andy Roddick in 2009, Paul is the only American to have advanced to the semi-finals in Melbourne, and should he triumph, he would become the first representative of his nation to have advanced to the men’s final since Andre Agassi in 2003.
At the conclusion of the Australian Open, he will be one of 10 American men who are ranked in the top 50.
Since we were about 14 years old, that’s all we’ve heard, said Paul. “The coaches have been harping on the necessity for more Americans to join the team. My memory of it is somewhat etched.
“All of us desire to perform. Obviously, Frances [Tiafoe] came very, very close to advancing past the semifinals at the US Open. Who knows how the finals would have played out? We all want it very much for ourselves, but also for US tennis, I believe.
As the fourth-ranked player remaining in the tournament, Tsitsipas has now advanced to the Australian Open semifinals four times in the last five years.
The 24-year-old has won four of his five matches thus far in straight sets and attributes this to a shift in perspective. He claims that the event feels like his “home” major.
One way of viewing tennis, he explained, is that you feel quite worn out after each game. “On the court, anything you try to do requires a lot of work.
There is another type of tennis, one that you play while thoroughly enjoying yourself and not caring if it is tiring or not. Every time you do it, you feel renewed.
“I believe I’m moving more in that direction now than the other thing. I’m overjoyed to be playing on the court. I’m overjoyed to be on stage. I’m overjoyed to have made several accurate shots.
“I simply feel very hungry and have a lot of motivation to be playing tennis and accomplish new things because of this whole dynamic.”
Five previous encounters have been victories for Tsitsipas. Their first Grand Slam will be this.
Khachanov, a semifinalist at the US Open, should be the more rested player of the two after winning in straight sets in the fourth round before having his quarterfinal match ended by the injury retirement of Sebastian Korda.
The world number 20 has never been past the third round before, so he is in unfamiliar terrain in Australia.
This time is different because I’m physically feeling great so far following preseason, he added.
“I haven’t played in many long matches, so this is different; the semifinals may last three games. However, I’ll be in better physical form going into it.