‘Shocked’ Djokovic sent packing, gruelling Medvedev Zverev battle

1st seed Novak Djokovic in his post match media conference after losing to 4th seed Jannik Sinner.

1st seed Novak Djokovic in his post match media conference after losing to 4th seed Jannik Sinner. Photo:AAP

Super Serb Novak Djokovic was in no mood to look for excuses after playing one of the worst grand slam matches of his storied career at a venue he has dominated like no other.

Coming into Friday’s Australian Open last-four encounter against Italian Jannik Sinner, the world No.1 boasted a perfect 20-from-20 record in semi-finals and finals at Melbourne Park.

But that unblemished tally was shattered in emphatic style, with Sinner winning 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6-8) 6-3.

It was the first time in an encounter that went the distance in Djokovic’s 415-match grand slam career in which he did not create a single break-point opportunity.

“Probably that stat says a lot,” said the No.1 seed, who had won his previous 33 matches on Rod Laver Arena.

“First of all, he was serving very accurately and precisely. He was backing up his serve very well.

“For myself, it’s hard to describe … we don’t have that much time.

“There’s a lot of negative things that I’ve done on the court today in terms of my game that I’m not really pleased with, (be that) movement or forehand, backhand.

“Everything, you know, was just sub-par.

“He was very dominant, dominant on his service games.

“If you serve well and if you don’t face a break point, it plays with the mind of your opponent.”

Djokovic will now need to wait until the French Open in May for his next shot at what would be a record 25th major singles title.

He currently sits level with Australian legend Margaret Court on 24 slams.

What is certain is that the 36-year-old will have to play way better than he did on Friday against the free-swinging Italian if he is to challenge for a fourth title on the clay at Roland Garros.

“He’s deservedly in the final; he outplayed me completely today,” said Djokovic.

“I was shocked with my level, in a bad way.

“There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets.

“I guess this is one of the worst grand slam matches I’ve ever played, at least that I remember.

“It’s not a very pleasant feeling playing this way.

“But at the same time, credit to him for doing everything better than me, you know, in every aspect of the game.

“I tried, I fought. I managed to raise the level a little bit in the third, saved match point, played a good tiebreak.

“But again, in the fourth set, it was a very bad game to lose, 40-0 up on 1-2, and against the wind a little bit.

“Just overall the … level of my tennis was really not great.”

Russian ice-man storms back

Sinner will play Russian No.3 seed Daniil Medvedev in the title match on Sunday night.

Medvedev came back from two sets down to beat rival Alexander Zverev 5-7 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 in the second semi.

“I’ve never made it that tough before and I’m happy about it,” said Medvedev.

“Before, my statistics in five-set matches were not good.

“Physically and mentally it’s tough, five sets.

“Many times (in the past) in the fifth, I was not strong enough.

“So I’m happy.”

Medvedev has played in five previous major finals, but has only won one of them – a straight-sets victory over Djokovic at the 2021 US Open.

The first set on Friday night was a topsy-turvy affair, with Zverev bolting out of the blocks with two early breaks of serve to lead 4-1.

Medvedev got both breaks back, only for the German to clinch the opener in a dramatic 12th game.

The German extended his domination at the net in the second set, breaking Medvedev’s serve in the fifth and ninth games to take a stranglehold.

Medvedev had been taken to five sets in two of his previous five matches at Melbourne Park – a second-round tussle against Emil Ruusuvuori which finished at 3.39am and his quarter-final against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.

But, ultimately, he won the gruelling physical battle over more than four-and-a-quarter hours, as Zverev revealed afterwards: “I didn’t feel 100 per cent physically.

“End of the second set I started to lose energy. I am a bit sick. I got a bit sick after the (Carlos) Alcaraz match with a bit of fever and stuff like that, so that didn’t help the recovery – and I did play quite a lot.

“Against him, it’s impossible to play when you’re not 100 per cent physically, because he’s literally someone that really doesn’t give you anything.”

There had been bad blood between the pair in the past and it threatened to boil over again late in the third set when the Russian demanded to see a replay of a close line call in Zverev’s favour.

“He knows the ball was inside the line,” Zverev complained to chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore.

“He’s doing a show again.”

The Russian then benefited from a large slice of luck in the fourth-set tiebreaker when a mis-hit return off the frame dropped in, gifting him a set point.

Medvedev claimed the crucial break in the fifth game of the decider after Zverev missed a straightforward volley to go down 15-40 and then got a code violation for twice smashing his racquet into the net in frustration.

Now dominant, Medvedev broke again in the ninth game to close the match out in four hours and 18 minutes.

“At one moment in the third set, I felt like I was tired physically and looking at him I didn’t feel it,” said Medvedev.

“So I was like actually I cannot run any more for 40-shot rallies, so I’m like ‘OK, let’s go more aggressive’.

“And if it doesn’t work out, I tried.

“I tried what I felt would work and it started working.

“I started to make some good shots, better shots that I didn’t do before.

“Started to serve much better, put a lot of pressure on my serve, and then tiebreaks were unbelievable.”

The only other time Zverev had lost a five-setter from two sets up was the 2020 US Open final to Dominic Thiem.

Sinner to ‘smile and try my best’

“I don’t know what to say, really,” said Sinner, the world No.4.

“I came here (in late December), I started off in Kooyong with a couple of exhibition matches and tried to come here as prepared as possible.

“The confidence from the end of last year has kept the belief that I can play against the best players in the world.

“I’m really happy that I can play Sunday in my first final. Let’s see how it goes.

“I will come here with a smile and try my best.”

On the evidence of not only the past fortnight in Melbourne – where the 22-year-old has yet to drop a set – but the past four months, Sinner is very much the man to beat.

Thriving under Australian super-coach Darren Cahill, who guided Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep to world No.1, Sinner has swept all before him since a sapping fourth-round loss to Zverev at the US Open in September.

He has collected titles in Beijing – where he conquered Medvedev and Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz – and Vienna, made the season-ending championship final in Turin and piloted Italy to a drought-breaking Davis Cup triumph.

Sinner’s twin victories over Djokovic at the ATP Finals and Davis Cup had placed the tennis world on notice.

But few could have imagined how he’d put Djokovic to the sword on Friday.



Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.