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Resilient Djokovic qualifies for 9th Aussie Open semis at Zverev’s expense

Melbourne, Australia, Feb 16 (efe-epa).- Top seed Novak Djokovic on Tuesday overcame a stern mental and physical test from Germany’s Alexander Zverev to secure a ninth Australian Open semi-final appearance.

The two-time defending champion, who battled through abdominal pain in the previous two rounds, had to come from behind in a 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) win over the No. 6 seed in a three-hour-and-half quarter-final clash.

“Down to the very last shot, it was anybody’s game, anybody’s match,” Djokovic said.

“There were a lot of nerves out there, a lot of pressure. Emotionally, I feel a little drained, honestly. It was a great battle. Congratulations to Sascha for a great tournament and a great battle today. Tough luck today, but we pushed each other to the limit.”

The pressure was on Djokovic as soon as the match began, as he conceded his first serve and later survived an eight-minute-and-31-second ninth game to hold and stay in the set.

The German failed to serve out for the frame after losing his next service game, but then forced a tiebreak to take the set.

In the second frame, Djokovic stormed into a 4-0 lead thanks to his much improved serve, which was imperious throughout the rapid 29-minute set.

The first-set scenario seemed to be repeating itself in the third, as the German won four of the opening games, a service break included. A frustrated Djokovic got a warning as he smashed his racket.

But the relentless Serb then won five consecutive games to cancel out Zverev’s 3-0 lead to go 2-1 up.

In the fourth and final set, both players held serve throughout, forcing a tiebreak in which Djokovic prevailed.

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