Novak Djokovic v Tommy Paul, Stefanos Tsitsipas v Karen Khachanov; Australian Open SF Picks And Pans

by Sean Randall | January 26th, 2023, 6:41 pm
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It’s a huge weekend at the Australian Open for Novak Djokovic who is just two wins from matching Rafael Nadal atop the all-time Grand Slam title leaderboard at 22.

Djokovic has been the favorite to win the title since day one, but his campaign got off to a rocky start.

Djokovic’s hamstring was the first week issue in three wins. Once he started facing seeded opposition, though, the hamstring sorted itself out and he’s been in full flight since, destroying both Alex De Minaur and Andrey Rublev.

If anyone can keep Djokovic from a 10th Australian Open title it’s going to be Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek isn’t on the run Novak is on, but he’s also undefeated on the year.

Tsitsipas toughed out Jannik Sinner and then overcame some breakpoints in the third in a straight set win over Jiri Lehecka. So Tsitsipas has been in form and seems due for that big Grand Slam breakthrough. That’s a few days away. So onto the tonight’s matches.

Stefanos Tsitsipas v Karen Khachanov
Two players looking to get over the “hump” are looking for their first Australian Open final. Karen Khachanov is playing some of his best ball but he has a dreadful mark against top guys losing his last 13 to Top 5 players. He’s had a decent draw beating Frances Tiafoe and then getting the retirement from Sebastian Korda and off the heels of a US Open semifinal, he’s clearly in fine form.

Tsitsipas has beaten the big names but hasn’t won that Grand Slam title. Will this be his time?

Tonight he’ll go in as the big favorite against the Russian. Tsitsipas has dominated Khachanov winning all five and I don’t expect anything different tonight.

Tsitsipas seems too locked in right now and his speed, variety and big-match experience should prove too much.

Karen has the firepower to win, but he’ll have to push it to the limit to have a chance.
The pick: Tsitsipas in 4

Novak Djokovic v Tommy Paul
How can Tommy Paul hurt Djokovic? Answer: He can’t.

Unless Djokovic is having a lousy day or the hamstring flares up, I just don’t see any path for success for Paul tonight.

Paul is a solid player. Does everything decent, but nothing particularly great. There’s no booming serve or monster forehand or backhand. He’s not 6-foot-7 and he’s not a physical presence. He just doesn’t have any shots in the Top 3-5 on tour.

What he is is a talented kid with nothing to lose. So I think he’ll at least empty the bucket and hope thing go in his favor. Even if he redlines all his weapons, it still probably wouldn’t be enough if Djokovic was playing at par.

This is Paul’s first Grand Slam semifinal while it’s Novak’s 44th! And Paul has to be thrilled by just making it this far. For Djokovic, he’s never lost once he’s made the Australian Open semifinal, and after last year, with the record chase, with the hamstring and now with the issue with his father and Russia, it feels like he’s got even more motivation.
The pick: Djokovic in 3

Matches start at 10:30pm ET.

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