Djokovic Overcomes Zverev At Australian Open, Karatsev Keeps Winning; Nadal v Tsitsipas
by Staff | February 16th, 2021, 11:46 am
  • 22 Comments

Aslan Karatsev continues to be a huge story. The 27-year-old Russian had never played a Grand Slam match until this week, and now finds himself into a Slam semifinal after taking out three straight seeds including Tuesday’s 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Of course it’s my first time playing main draw, first time semis,” Karatsev said. “It’s incredible.”

Dimitrov, a former Australian Open semifinalist in 2017, was in total control early and looked to be on his was to a quick win after taking the first set. Karatsev avoided early peril in the second, then start playing better off the ground. A quick break got him the lead and he didn’t let go.

Things went downhil for the Bulgarian in the third when he pulled up lame with a lower back issue. Dimitrov had trouble serving and moving to balls, but wouldn’t call the trainer. After dropping the third, he did.

Dimitrov returned from medical treatment in the locker room on his lower back, and while he played better, it wasn’t enough as Karatsev continued to dominate.

:It was really tough from the beginning for me to hold the nerves. It was really tricky,” Karatsev said. “I tried to find a way how to play and then in the third set he felt the back.”

Karatsev had just three career Tour-level wins to his name coming into the tournament. He had never even been able to qualify for a Grand Slam main draw. Now he’s the first man in the Open Era to make a Grand Slam semifinal in his debut, and he’s the first qualifier in a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Vladimir Voltschkov at 2000 Wimbledon.

“It’s amazing that I reached the semifinals from qualifying,” Karatsev said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and not think about winning too much. Playing round to round, I try to believe every match what I’m doing on the court, and it’s helped me to win matches.”

Dimitrov admitted he just didn’t want to quit.

“I just got a back spasm yesterday at some point, and that was it,” Dimitrov said. “We couldn’t fix it on time. It happened, I think, early in the match. It kept on progressing, and it was unstoppable. But that’s enough about me. It’s his day.

“I felt I was on a good path. We’ve done great work. I was very positive and upbeat for whatever, whoever I had to play,” he added. “Today, I couldn’t put my socks on before the match, so I knew it was going to be a tough moment for me. I tried, but it was not good enough. But he absolutely deserved to win.”

In the nightcap, Novak Djokovic found a way to win yet again, besting Alexander Zverev 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(6).

“Down to the very last shot, it was anybody’s game, anybody’s match,” said Djokovic. “A lot of nerves out there, a lot of pressure. Emotionally, 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.”

Zverev, who played Djokovic tough a couple weeks ago at the ATP Cup, led by a break in three of the four sets. After being down, Djokovic managed to force a breaker in the first but came up just short.

Things went smoothly in the second for the World No. 1 before Zverev got back on top in the third. At one point down 1-3, deuce, Djokovic violently smashed his racquet. He dropped the game but then ran off five straight to take the set and a 2-1 lead.

However Zverev again got on top and again couldn’t hold it. Eventually, his 23rd ace at 7-6 in the breaker sealed it for the Serb.

“I just felt I started moving better, playing better,” said Djokovic about his play after the first set. “I served extremely well. I had slightly more aces than him (23 to 21) which, for me, is a miracle playing against a big server like Sascha.

“Other than the second set, I started pretty poorly all the other three sets,” Djokovic added. “I lost my service very early in the first, third and fourth and just allowed him to swing through the ball a bit more. I regained my focus after I broke my racquet [in the third set] and things started to shift a little bit for me in a positive direction. If he won this match, it definitely wouldn’t be undeserved. He was playing really well. It was anybody’s game and I am just really glad to overcome such a challenge.”

Djokovic improves to 40-0 as a top seed at the Australian Open, and in his 9th career semifinals — he’s never lost once he reaches the last four in Melbourne — he’ll meet the qualifier Karatsev Thursday night. And then he’ll get two days off before the Sunday final.

“To be honest, I hadn’t seen [Karatsev] play at all before the Australian Open,” said Djokovic. “Of course, I have seen him play during the Australian Open.

“He is a very strong guy. Physically, he is just very strong. He moves well, just has a lot of firepower from the back of the court. Great backhand, from the Russian school of tennis, always have great backhands. He serves well and he is motivated. He has nothing to lose.”

Zverev fell to 0-9 against Top 10 players in Slams.

“Maybe too many mistakes, easy mistakes,” said Zverev. “But it’s one of the most difficult things, holding your serve against Novak in our sport. Very upset with the result.

“For me, the most upsetting parts in the third and fourth sets were actually not losing my serve, but not getting the second breaks. Because I had chances in both those sets, that would have changed things a lot. It was a great match. I think we both played well, I think we played an extremely physical match.”

On Wednesday, the two monster showdowns are on tap. In the day, Daniil Medvedev meets his friend Andrey Rublev in a massive Russian battle. Medvedev has won his last 18 matches and has never lost a set to Rublev in three matches, including a straight-set win at the US Open.

At night, the improving Rafael Nadal takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of their 2019 semifinal. Nadal leads 6-1 but the Greek has played him tough, beating Nadal on clay.

WEDNESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena – 11:00 AM
BARTY, Ashleigh (AUS) [1] vs. MUCHOVA, Karolina (CZE) [25]
Not before: 1:00 PM
BRADY, Jennifer (USA) [22] vs. PEGULA, Jessica (USA)
Not before: 3:00 PM
RUBLEV, Andrey (RUS) [7] vs. MEDVEDEV, Daniil (RUS) [4]
7:30 PM
TSITSIPAS, Stefanos (GRE) [5] vs. NADAL, Rafael (ESP) [2]
ALCOTT, Dylan (AUS) [1] vs. SCHRODER, Sam (NED)


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Nadal Breezes Into Australian QFs, Russians Advance; Djokovic v Zverev Tues.

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22 Comments for Djokovic Overcomes Zverev At Australian Open, Karatsev Keeps Winning; Nadal v Tsitsipas

mat4 Says:

Ok, let’s try.

Tsitsipas vs Nadal 3-2, Medvedev vs Rublev 3-1.

The h2h favours Medvedev heavily, but Rublev seems to have improved, so I guess he could win a set.

In the second match, I wrote 3-2 for Tsitsipas, but it could well be for Nadal. I feel that the surface/balls could advantage a bit the Greek, but I certainly do not see an easy win for either of the players.

If I had to bet, I would go on Medvedev in the first QF, and more than 40 games in the second.


Patson Says:

Ma’ man Nole! Not at 100% and yet keeping the hopes alive. Keep fighting!

Final: Novak vs Medvedev — Novak wins in 4. But if by any chance either Rafa or Rublev make it to the final, Novak wins in 3.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Just have to say: Novak, Nadal, Serena. Absolute legends.


mat4 Says:

Although a nolefam, I am very worried by his injury and I honestly do not think he can win this AO. He needs a miracle imho. He plays at 80%. It was enough today — he served well and kept his cool in critical moments, but will it be enough in the next rounds?


Milos Says:

Good to see good old Nole fans here. Comments section seems a bit quiet for a Grand Slam period though. Nole did say in his presser that he felt, at times, as good as in Fritz match before the injury. So that is encouraging…

PS. anyone seen jane lately?


mat4 Says:

@milos:

Jane writes a lot on Twitter, mostly about bias in tennis journalism and cinema.


mat4 Says:

Milos, I think it is fatigue. There is not much more to say. And also, I cannot argue any more. Jane and Yolita are still fighting, but the narrative about Novak is set.


Milos Says:

Thanks Mat for pointing me in the right direction. I was missing their comments and perspective.


mat4 Says:

Yes, they both have a lot of fighting spirit. And there is a large community of nolefam on Twitter, supporting each other. It is easy to find Yoli (yolitatennis), and then you will find jane too (she has a very long number behind her name.


Wog Boy Says:

Rafa is schooling Tsitsipas, this is going to be over soon.
Master play by master, top notch tactics, Rafa’s BH is on fire.


Anto Says:

Tsitsipas playing much relaxed and hence better right now. He will probably take this set I reckon


Anto Says:

Nadal played a bad breaker. But well done for Tsitsipas for not simply giving up.


Anto Says:

This is turning out to be a cracker. Very high quality play from both now.


Van Persie Says:

Looks a bit like the Nole-Tsitsi 2020 RG semifinal. Let’s see if Tsitsi will keep his nerves. He does not look tired.


Anto Says:

Nadal struggling to even reach deuce at Tsitsipas’s serve.He hasn’t even seen a break point since the end of 2nd set. This now looks like Tsitsipas’s match to lose. Unless Nadal suddenly up his return game or Tsitsipas game just falls apart I don’t see Nadal winning this now. Full credit to Tsitsipas for his play.


Van Persie Says:

Daniil has to enjoy his popcorn now :)


Van Persie Says:

Daniil will eat Tsitsi alive. A great match. Best of the tournament so far. I enjoy such matches, only when my fave is not in them lol


Anto Says:

Congrats Tsitsipas. Well played. Handled his nerves very well. As for Nadal he probably shouldn’t have missed some easy forehands in the tiebreak as well as in the last game of the fifth set. But overall a great match.


Ronn Says:

Let’s just hope that Stef and Daniil get into a looking 5 set grinder and wear each other out. That’ll make it all the easier for my boy Djoko to lift #9 and #18 and then crush the fedtards’ hearts on March 8th when he gets #311. And after the French, Rafa sits at 21 Majors titles and Feddy boy officially becomes the 3rd greatest player of all time. Idemo Djoko!


mat4 Says:

Another 100%. When I watch pundits making predictions, I often ask myself if they even watch tennis. Yesterday it was half an hour of “Nadal cannot lose this one” between Maylin et Pichene. We saw it all. One point can make the difference.

Now, let’s hope Novak will win his semi. Karatsev has nothing to lose.


skeezer Says:

mat4,
Novak is not going to lose to a Qualifier in a Semi of a GS, trust me :)


chrisford1 Says:

The one-on-one duel nature of tennis, the individual vs the team having the main role in outcome, the great come from behind wins that spring from one person’s mind, and the fiber to keep fighting when defeat is coming vs. cave…that makes pro tennis great. Only boxing and MMA compare, and while tennis may lead to bad hips and knees and tennis elbows later in life – it does not lead to brain damage.
So Nadal-Tsitsipas was really the best sort of match tennis has to offer.
And poor me, just could not watch and still do some obligation to the wife the next morning, being in America…and it happening in the wee hours of the morning. Went to sleep at the start of the 3rd set tie-breaker and have the rest of the classic recorded ‘in the cloud’ to look at later.
Man, was I surprised!
I did see the interviews of both so see if injury was a factor and how Rafa held up after yet another promising quest for his 2nd AO ends in failure. Nadal was not bothered by his back and he handled his loss with the champion qualities of character he has. And Stephan was charming, and showing he was a fine player deserving of more success, and matches like this will build him up to an even higher level.


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