Novak Djokovic barely had to break a sweat Wednesday night at the Australian Open thanks to a retirement from Kei Nishikori with the Serb up 6-1, 4-1.
“As they say, this is exactly what the doctor ordered for me after that match two nights ago, not to spend too much time on the court,” said Djokovic who played a long match in the previous round against Daniil Medvedev.
“I’ve had plenty of matches this year already. Now I’m in another semifinal, and I’ll do everything to get ready for that one.”
Nishikori entered the match having played three 5-setters including a 5-hour marathon on Monday. And with his history of retirements, the outcome really wasn’t much of a surprise.
“Before the match, I was okay,” Nishikori said. “Of course, I wasn’t, like, fresh, fresh. I thought I was going to be okay. After third game or fourth game when I was serving, I felt pretty heavy to my right leg. After that I couldn’t really bend my knees and couldn’t jump up. Yeah, I decided to stop.”
Djokovic has now won his last 19 matches in Grand Slam play.
“Feels great,” Djokovic said about his result. “This has been my most successful Grand Slam throughout my career, the first one that I won back in 2008.
“Past two years have been a bit tough with the elbow injury and everything. Over the past 10 years, I’ve had plenty of success here. Obviously that has helped to kickstart the season in a great fashion, obviously served as a great confidence boost for what was coming up after that.”
In the Friday night semifinal, Djokovic will meet Lucas Pouille who chopped down Milos Raonic 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4. After never having taken a set from Raonic in seven tries, Pouille broke the Canadian three times and handled his big serve about as well as anyone.
It was an ominous start, though, for the Frenchmen who was broken immediately and then went down 5-2 in the first. But Pouille roared back and took the opener and got enough returns back to frustrate Raonic. And he never faced a break point again.
“I didn’t have to face a breakpoint for almost three hours,” Pouille said. “Even if I lost the third set, in my mind it was clear I had to stay focused on my service game, taking care of that, then trying to put as many returns as I can.
“In the third set I had some breakpoints. He always saved it really well with a good serve, good points. Then he made a good breaker. Here we are. It’s a fourth set.
“I’m still leading two sets to one, so I don’t have to panic. I really needed to stay positive, still doing what I did great for 2 hours 30 minutes.”
The 24-year-old Pouille came into the Australian Open with an 0-5 record. But now he’s into his first Grand Slam semifinal. And he’s in town with new coach and 2006 Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo.
“I think she’s bringing a lot of confidence to my game, to my personality, to my state of mind,” said Pouille. “The goal is not to reach the final, the semifinal, the goal is to improve my tennis, to put what I work on during the practice in the match. That gives me less pressure. I’m just trying to focus on my game, not on the consequences and the results.”
Djokovic looked forward to the meeting.
“I always thought he’s a great quality player,” the Serb said of Pouille. “What he has done this tournament is fantastic. He has won against some top players. Of course Milos, Coric in the last round. He struggled a little bit with consistency of his results in the last two years.
“But with the quality of the tennis that he possesses, he deserves to be definitely at the top 15, maybe top 10 of the world. He’s got that quality and potential, no question about it.”
On tap Thursday night in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal will try to stop the breakout run of Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nadal beat the Greek in the Barcelona and Canadian Open finals, but even though he hasn’t dropped a set all week, he’s wary of the 20-year-old.
“For me is always the same: you are in the semifinals of a Grand Slam, you can’t expect an easy opponent,” Nadal said. “Stefanos is one of the best players of the world. To have the chance to be in that final, I need to play my best, and that’s what I am looking for.”
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