Novak Djokovic marched into the Australian Open final, demolishing Lucas Pouille on Friday night to set up a mouth-watering final with Rafael Nadal.
Just as Nadal did a night earlier, the Serb made short work of his lower-ranked and younger opponent, winning 6-0 6-2 6-2 in an 83-minute stroll.
“It’s definitely one of the best matches I ever had on his court, definitely,” Djokovic proclaimed after mopping up the world No.31. “Everything worked the way I imagined it before the match and even more so.”
The world No.1 and No.2 will now meet in the Australian Open final for the first time since their six-hour 2012 classic viewed by many as one of the greatest matches of all time.
Friday night’s semifinal sat in stark contrast.
From Pouille’s first service game – lost with a double-fault – it was evident the spectacle would not equal the stage.
Djokovic’s groundstrokes tested Pouille beyond his capacity but the top seed’s consistency was what killed the Frenchman.
The 14-time major champion simply gave his opponent nothing, making a single unforced error in each of the first two sets and a total of five all night.
Seven of his 11 service holds came to love, demoralising Pouille who can at least find comfort in a career-best performance at a Grand Slam, which gives him the biggest payday of his career and will lift him inside the world top 20.
Djokovic has his sights a little higher.
He will become the first man to win seven Australian titles should he triumph in Sunday’s final.
It would also be his third Grand Slam title in a row after the 31-year-old’s wins at Wimbledon and the US Open last year.
Djokovic’s run is all the more astonishing given an elbow injury that hampered his first half of 2018 and saw him enter Wimbledon as the world No.21.
“It was highly unlikely 12 months ago that I would be where I am today, a year later,” he said. “But I’ve said it before, and I always have plenty of belief in myself, and I think the self belief is something that always prevails.”
Djokovic leads his career head-to-head record with Nadal 27-25, the most played matchup in Open-era tennis.
Their Australian Open final seven years ago has been hailed by Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Mats Wilander, among others, as the greatest match in tennis history but Djokovic said he wasn’t expecting the same again.
“I don’t think that we will go that far as six hours, almost. But that’s … a once in a lifetime experience, and, yeah, hopefully the outcome can be the same for me,” he said.
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