Djokovic breezes past Rublev to make Aussie Open semis

By Lobsang DS Subirana

Melbourne, Australia, Jan 25 (EFE).- Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the tournament’s semi-finals Wednesday following a 1-6, 2-6, 4-6 straight-sets victory over an erratic Andrey Rublev, extending his bid for a 10th title in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic was quick off the mark, breaking the Russian twice in a row to cement a 1-5 lead with just under 35 minutes played. The Serb was commanding in his returns and only allowed the No. 5 seed to win 58 percent of his first serves.

Rublev played an aggressive game, trying to break down Djokovic, who absorbed the pressure and forced multiple unforced errors off his opponent’s forehand. It took just under 40 minutes for the nine-time champion to make it 6-1, hitting five aces and 12 winners in the process.

Rublev held the first two games in the second set, but quickly found himself three breakpoints down, with Djokovic capitalizing to draw first blood for a 2-3 lead. The Serb extended the rallies and benefited from the longer points, especially at critical moments when the Russian drew multiple chances to break back.

Instead, Djokovic first held and then broke Rublev a second time to serve at 2-5, comfortably winning the second set, as the No. 5 seed squandered another breakpoint – the fifth – and ended with an alarming 17 percent win rate on his second serve.

The Russian broke down in the second, giving away two straight breakpoints, and though he clawed one back immediately, it proved insufficient to prevent the Serb from advancing to the semi-final.

Djokovic will now play unseeded American Tommy Paul, who beat his compatriot Ben Shelton 6-7 (8), 3-6, 7-5, 4-6 following a tightly contested match, in which it took almost an hour and 30 minutes for the victor to break serve, halfway through the second set.

In the women’s draw, No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka made short work of Croatia’s Donna Vekic to reach the semi-final with a 6-3, 6-2 win, while Poland’s Magda Linette beat former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova with a tight 3-6, 5-7 scoreline.

Linette will now play Belarusian Sabalenka for a place in the final. Her compatriot, former two-time champion Viktoria Azarenka, will play defending Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who will compete for her second grand slam title during Saturday’s women’s final. EFE


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