World No 1 Novak Djokovic is well on track for a ninth title at the Australian Open and said that his semifinal win over Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev was the ‘best he had felt so far in the tournament.’
Djokovic, who had suffered an abdominal injury in the third round against Taylor Fritz, swung freely as he defeated Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 53 minutes on Thursday.
“This is the best I felt during the entire tournament,” he told Jim Courier on court.
“Felt great, I could swing through the ball, no pain, just best match so far, and it came at the right time and I’m thrilled to feel this way.”
"I'm gonna take the popcorn and enjoy it."
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
Through 15 games, Djokovic had committed just one unforced error and he struck 30 total winners en route to the 28th Grand Slam championship final of his career.
“Recovery is priority right now. I’m feeling the ball well, I’m playing well, I had enough match play, enough practice so right now it’s just gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match of the Australian Open,” he added.
Djokovic has never failed to win the tournament after making the semi-finals and he will be heavily favoured to claim a record-extending ninth title at his favourite Slam on Sunday.
The 34-year-old, who completed the victory with his 17th ace, will now look to add to his 17 major crowns and move one step closer to all-time title leaders Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (both with 20 Grand Slam trophies).
While Karatsev would have been regarded one of Djokovic’s more unlikely semi-final opponents, the world number 114 put up a decent show at Rod Laver Arena as fans returned to Melbourne Park following a five-day lockdown.
He broke Djokovic twice in the match and came back from 5-1 down in the second set to briefly rattle the Serb.
“I want to give credit to Karatsev for a great tournament,” said Djokovic. “Maybe it wasn’t his day today, but he had big wins [on his] debut, [and a] first Grand Slam semifinal.
The 27-year-old Karatsev is projected to break into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings on Monday.