Novak Djokovic produced a masterclass on Wednesday to reach the Australian Open semi-finals and move closer to a 22nd Grand Slam title with a straight sets goal over Andrey Rublev.
The Serbian was in the field to beat the Russian 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena and meet Tommy Paul in Sunday’s final.
American qualifier Paul beat compatriot Ben Shelton 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
“I couldn’t be happier with my tennis, to be honest,” Djokovic said after reaching his 10th semi-final at Melbourne Park. Only Roger Federer (15) and Jack Crawford (11) have been more often.
“I’ve been playing really hard from the back of the court and I’m really enjoying playing in these conditions and on this court,” the 35-year-old told Rod Laver Arena.
“We had very close games,” he added. “Andrey is a great opponent, a great player. I have a lot of respect for him, one of the fastest players on the tour, one of the biggest players.
“I knew what the game plan was and it was important to find my best tennis.”
Djokovic’s quest for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title has not been smooth sailing, plagued by a strained left hamstring suffered en route to the title in Adelaide this month.
He struggled physically in the early rounds, but dominated in his fourth-round takedown of Alex de Minaur, and showed little trouble against Rublev.
The red-hot favorite’s victory pushed him into his 44th Grand Slam semi-final to close within Federer’s record 46.
In another stunning record, he won his 26th consecutive match at the Australian Open to equal Andre Agassi’s Open-era record in the first Grand Slam of the year.
The signs were ominous for Rublev before the match began.
In contrast to Djokovic’s outstanding record in Melbourne, Rublev – who was taken to five sets by Holger Rune in the fourth round – came into the clash with a 0-6 record in Grand Slam quarterfinals.
After a shaky start when he double-faulted to open proceedings, Djokovic quickly settled into the rhythm.
The Russian, who was also double-faulted at the start, struggled at first.
The fury of his serve lasted and when the Serbian broke back for 2-1 he doubled back in reply.
Djokovic was on fire and raced to a 4-1 lead in the fifth break point before accelerating to 5-1 and taking the set in 39 minutes.
Rublev had no answer to his precision and power.
Djokovic continued in the same vein in the second set, and in the fourth game he took advantage of his opportunity after a 16 shot, Rublev first blinked with a backhand error.
Another break left Rublev frustrated and he punished himself as he dropped two sets.
He took a bathroom break between sets but it didn’t work as Djokovic came out with more venomous shots and broke serve in the opening game and never let up.