Sinner vows to fight for every ball against Djokovic

Sinner, who beat world number one Djokovic twice at the end of 2023, has reached the semifinals without dropping a set

By Reuters

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Italy's Jannik Sinner in action during his quarterfinal match against Russia's Andrey Rublev on Tuesday. — Reuters
Italy's Jannik Sinner in action during his quarterfinal match against Russia's Andrey Rublev on Tuesday. — Reuters

Published: Tue 23 Jan 2024, 9:29 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Jan 2024, 9:30 PM

Italy's Jannik Sinner set up a mouth-watering Australian Open semifinal against Novak Djokovic as he fought off Andrey Rublev in a late-night duel at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.

The fourth seed showed patience and resilience to claim a 6-4 7-6(5) 6-3 win against the Russian who now owns the ugly record of 10 defeats out of 10 in Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Sinner, who beat world number one Djokovic twice at the end of 2023, has reached the semifinals without dropping a set.

"I'm really lucky to be facing the world number one in the semifinals," Sinner, who lost to Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in his maiden Grand Slam semifinal, said on court.

"It's going to be tough but the only thing I can control is that I'll fight 100% for every ball and see what happens."

Fifth seed Rublev, as he always does, threw the kitchen sink at his opponent but was left with the same old sinking feeling as he consistently failed to take his chances, especially when leading the second set tiebreak 5-1.

Sinner hit back in majestic fashion to reel off the six points in a row to establish a two-set lead and that proved pivotal as Rublev's resolve began to crumble.

The Russian wore a world-weary expression in the third set and dropped serve to hand Sinner a 4-2 lead and the clean-hitting Italian duly closed out a comfortable win at nearly 1.30am local time to reach his first Australian Open semifinal.

The 22-year-old Sinner will take heart for his forthcoming battle with 10-time champion Djokovic on Friday having beaten him at the ATP Finals and in the Davis Cup Finals in November.

Meanwhile, Djokovic and Coco Gauff were both made to toil for semifinal places on a blazing Tuesday but Aryna Sabalenka and Sinner roared through the night session.

Two epic battles in the afternoon meant defending women's champion Sabalenka did not walk onto Rod Laver Arena until well after 9 pm but the Belarusian made light of Czech Barbora Krejcikova, winning 6-2 6-3 to ease pressure on the schedule.

Holder Djokovic was expected to breeze past Taylor Fritz having come into the contest with an 8-0 win-loss record over the 12th seeded American but he endured a stern test that lasted four hours to prevail 7-6(3) 4-6 6-2 6-3.

"This match was not an enjoyable match for me at all," Djokovic told reporters. "Of course, I'm proud to overcome the kind of challenge and obstacles and I'm pleased to win but it wasn't enjoyable at all.

"It was really ... a lot of suffering in every aspect. You have days like that where you just have to accept it, face the circumstances and try to make the most out of it."

Djokovic has had some tough moments on his way to reaching his 48th Grand Slam but is now two wins away from a record-extending 11th Melbourne Park title and 25th Grand Slam to eclipse the record he shares with Margaret Court.

Invariably he finds a solution and Gauff was forced to do the same against Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk, admitting she had to win "ugly" as she triumphed 7-6(6) 6-7(3) 6-2 in a scrappy match lasting a little over three hours.

"Yeah, it was a fight," the US Open champion Gauff, who had to battle back from 5-1 down in the opening set, said.

"I think today was definitely a 'C' game. Hopefully I got the bad match out of the way."

She will certainly have to against reigning champion Sabalenka who had far too much power for 2021 French Open champion Krejcikova in a match lasting only 71 minutes.

"I think it was a really great match today. I played really great tennis and I really hope I can just keep playing that way or even better," Sabalenka, who lost to Gauff in the US Open final, said on court.


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