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Djokovic: ‘I couldn’t be happier with my tennis’

It was a swift night session for Novak Djokovic, putting Andrey Rublev out of his misery and reaching his tenth Australian Open semi-final

Novak Djokovic Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 25, 2023 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his quarter final match against Russia’s Andrey Rublev (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

It was not so much a resurgent Novak Djokovic who took on Andrey Rublev on Wednesday, but a rampant one.

He emerged the victor 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in just over two hours, equalling the longest-ever winning streak in the men’s singles at the tournament – 26 matches since 2019.

It was a superlative display, with Rublev’s previously excellent figures on serve collapsing. In the fourth round, he won 73 per cent of his points on first serve, and 47 per cent on second serve. Tonight, he was at 61 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

That is not to say the Russian was playing badly, necessarily, simply that the nine-time Australian Open champion was in irresistible form.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic shakes hands with Russia’s Andrey Rublev after winning their quarter-final match (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

“The scoreline doesn’t speak the truth, the reality of the match,” Djokovic pointed out on court to interviewer Jim Courier afterwards. “Andrey is a great opponent, a great player.”

The television camera switched briefly to an overhead view of a disconsolate Rublev warming down, alone in the gym, cycling on a stationary bike. He can be forgiven for wondering what more he could have done – and he may have been surprised to hear Djokovic say that he didn’t even think it was his best performance of the tournament, although he admitted it was “very close”.

“I cannot be happier with my tennis,” said the 35-year-old. “I love playing in these conditions, this court.”

Djokovic – I found my best tennis

The Melbourne quarter-finals are the Serb’s happy place. He has now won ten of his 13 encounters at this stage – meaning he is about to take third place on the all-time list for most Australian Open men’s singles semi-final appearances, ahead of John Bromwich.

To find his last defeat in the last eight at the Australian Open, one has to go back almost a decade – to 2014, when he fell to Stan Wawrinka.

Rublev had been looking to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final – but instead he added a seventh major quarter-final defeat to his record.

Against such an opponent in such impregnable form, he was always up against it.

“In all the important moments, I found my best tennis,” declared Djokovic. “That’s what makes me most pleased tonight.”

It is also what is most likely to worry Tommy Paul – the man who will face him for the first time in the final four on Friday.

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