Australian Open 2023: The great Djokovic is scary again | Sports

Not even a game has elapsed when Andrei Rublev, a tennis player with remarkable forms but with a too brittle mind, has already looked at his bench a couple of times because the imp inside him is pressing him with the trident and the one in front of him is even more so. Not even 35 minutes of the game have passed when the Russian, with a tendency to disperse, an explosive cocktail of emotions that the Spanish Fernando Vicente has been trying to appease and elevate since 2016, is already sweating and suffering non-stop because Novak Djokovic moves him back and forth like a rattle and goes 1-5 below. He doesn’t even mark the clock for 40 minutes when the Muscovite has already lost the first set, he snorts, shrugs his arms and feels that a locomotive that nobody can stop these days in Melbourne has run over him.

Whether he is better or worse, with his left thigh more or less restored, the Serbian (6-1, 6-2 and 6-4, in 2h 03m) continues to bite into this tournament that, according to what has been seen so far, invites towards a single address. Rafael Nadal aside since last week, bruised, Nole progresses and dispatches rivals with a supine determination that now places him just two steps away from his 22nd title. At the next station he will meet the American Tommy Paul, who will either change history a lot or go through the same door through which Carballés, Couacaud, Dimitrov, De Miñaur and Rublev have been leaving in procession. The latter can do little more than tickle him and leans in too; he covers himself with the towel when he gives up the break for 5-2 in the second round and curses in his native language. He knows he is sentenced. Everything seems to lead to Djokovic, finally on fire. Notice to boaters.

If in the two previous commitments he had already offered a level jump, in this last one he gives another twist. It happens on a night of wind, humidity and screams. The one from Moscow despairs and explodes, while he howls and fixes a piercing look on his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, who agrees but doesn’t understand anything; everything is going smoothly but Djokovic aspires to more, to perfection in each and every one of his blows, maneuvers and decisions, so his blood boils when he returns a backhand badly and pulls the ring off the grenade. In his case, a magnificent sign. After the taciturn version of the first rounds and the growing one shown later, tennis and the attitude of this Wednesday confirm the recovery of the most overwhelming. It is Nole in all his expression, elastic, damaging in every shot and feverish.

“The days off are being very different from the usual, because I am more connected to the machines than to anyone in order to recover and be ready to compete,” says the man from Belgrade, who will land in the penultimate round of the tournament supported by a double overwhelming fact: he has never lost on that scale and will attend on Friday after having equaled the historic sequence of victories of the American Andre Agassi (26) in Melbourne, without comparison until now.

These are his tenth semi-finals in Australia, where the doubts and suspense stemming from the leg (still bandaged) are really beginning to dissipate. There’s a slight gesture loading support on that left side at first, a few stretches later, but nothing more. Not noticeable, at least. The Serbian expands at the moment of truth, rounds off a superb performance and on his horizon he spots the first-timer Paul, with whom he has never met. He plays the American without complexes, without a handbrake. But he will need more. Much more. Neutralized his compatriot Ben Shelton (7-6 (6), 6-3, 5-7 and 6-4), he has a colossal challenge in his first dance with Djokovic, which if the trantran was already scary, in this mechanical mode still more.

In this final stretch of Australia, few questions and many certainties. The mystery of the bandage is less of a mystery. Yes, in case there was any doubt, Djokovic is here again.

LINETTE AND SABALENKA, FIRST SEMIFINALISTS

AC | Melbourne

The access of Djokovic and Paul completed the lineup for the semifinals in the men’s draw, since the day before, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and the Russian Karen Khachanov had won the first two tickets.

The women’s, however, remains pending the duels that will be played this Thursday. Elena Rybakina and Victoria Azarenka will meet in the first turn (9.30, Eurosport), and then Aryna Sabalenka and Magda Linette, who obtained the pass this Thursday, will jump onto the track.

The first was imposed on Donna Vekic 6-3 and 6-2, and reached the penultimate season of a major tournament for the fourth time after the experiences Wimbledon (2021) and the US Open (2021 and 2022). The Pole, for her part, had never managed to clear the third round in a major and at her 30th birthday they stand as the surprise of this edition.

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