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Novak Djokovic targets 10th Australian Open final, Tommy Paul seems to be turning the script | Tennis news

MELBOURNE: As title contenders fall by the wayside at Melbourne Park, Novak Djokovic’s march to a 22nd Grand Slam crown carries an air of inevitability, with US first-time semifinalist Tommy Paul next Friday in the crosshairs of the super Serb.
Djokovic, fourth seed, looking for a record extension of 10th place Australian Open title, was in dominant form on his return to the country, a year after being deported on the eve of last year’s tournament for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
The biggest threat to his campaign so far has been a hamstring injury, which he sustained on his way to winning the warm-up title in Adelaide.
Djokovic was at his devastating best with his victories over Alex de Minaur in the fourth round and Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals and said those left in the men’s draw should pay attention.
“Playing against two guys who are really good, players in form, to beat them dominantly in three sets is something I want at the moment, something that sends a message to all my opponents who remain in the draw,” said Djokovic.
Having matched Andre Agassi’s 26-game winning streak at the Australian Open to reach his 44th Grand Slam semifinal and twice behind 20-time main champion Roger Federer on the all-time list, the 35-year-old Djokovic said he is still was always improving.
“I feel good on court, getting better as the tournament progresses,” said Djokovic. “I’ve been in this situation so many times in my life, in my career, I’ve never lost a semi-final at the Australian Open. Hopefully it stays that way.”
Hoping to flip the script is Paul, who outclasses fellow unseeded American Ben Shelton to become only the third active American male player to reach the last four of a Grand Slam alongside John Isner and Frances Tiafoe.
Paul’s progress testifies to the steady rise of American men tenniswith 10 players set to be in the ATP top 50 on Monday after a stellar run at Melbourne Park that saw names like holder Rafa Nadal, Daniil Medvedev and Casper Ruud go out early.
But the 25-year-old hopes to move on.
“It’s important to me,” said Paul, the first American man to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open since Andy Roddick in 2009. “We all really want it for ourselves, but we also want it for American tennis. “
Stefanos Tsitsipas makes his fourth appearance in the Australian Open semifinals as he takes on the revitalized Russian Karen Khachanov.
A crowd favorite at Melbourne Park, the third-seeded Greek has been ruthlessly efficient so far, winning four of his five matches in straight sets, including a comfortable victory over unannounced Czech Jiri Lehecka in the quarter-finals.
“It’s great to be in the semifinals again,” said Tsitsipas.
“Of course I’m absolutely happy with the way I played. I’m looking forward to more, to better. I’m looking forward to some magical experiences here in Australia.”
Khachanov will be slightly fresher of the two after advancing to the semifinals when his American opponent Sebastian Korda withdrew from the quarterfinals due to a wrist injury.
“This time it’s different because physically, also after the pre-season, I feel very good so far,” US Open semifinalist Khachanov said.
“I haven’t had long matches, so it’s different, it could also be three in the semi-finals. But when I start it, I will be in better physical shape.”

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