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Novak Djokovic faces off against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open final on Sunday with the Serbian joking that he feels “110 per cent”. Djokovic has been the over-riding favourite to win the Australian Open despite his troublesome hamstring injury.
He appeared to turn a corner in his recovery earlier this week with resounding victories over Alex de Minaur and Andrey Rublev. And that form continued with a dominant win over Paul, who was competing in his first Grand Slam semi-final.
The American threatened a comeback after going 5-1 down in the first set after Djokovic appeared distracted by a row he had with the umpire. However, after that small blip, Djokovic soon found top gear and Paul was on the backfoot for the remainder of the match.
The nine-time Australian Open champion dropped just three games after the score was 5-5 in the first set, blowing Paul away in every department. Asked after the match how much energy he had left in the tank heading into Sunday’s final, Djokovic said. “It’s great. It’s perfect. It’s 110 per cent.”
Courier then turned and pointed to the TV camera with a teasing warning to Tsitsipas. “Stefanos, turn your TV off, turn the volume down, turn away. Alright, give us the real answer,” he said.
Djokovic then added that he hopes his “experience” of playing in 32 Grand Slam finals previously will help him. “Stefanos, see you in two days,” Djokovic said.
“Of course you’re not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament, but we put in a lot of hours throughout the offseason weeks in our fitness and on the tennis court in order to be in a good enough condition to play best-of-five. I know what’s expected of me. I’ve been in this situation so many times in my career and I think experience helps also, but obviously on the court moment-to-moment, point-to-point it’s a great battle first of all with yourself and then the opponent.”
It will be the 13th time Djokovic faces off against Tsitsipas with the Serbian winning 10 to his rivals two. Their only meeting in a Grand Slam final came at the 2021 French Open when Djokovic remarkably fought back from two sets down and it’s clear there is a high level of respect from the 21-time major champion’s side.
“I won that match so my recollections are very positive,” he said. “I was two sets to love down and I think it was the first time I came back from two sets to love down in a Grand Slam final.
“I think it was also his first Grand Slam final. It was really physical, mental, emotional battle – it always is with Stefanos. I respect him a lot, he has improved over the years. I actually think he’s one of the most interesting guys on the tour with his interests off the court and his hairstyle and all.
“It’s all business on Sunday for both of us. Let the better player win.” When asked whether having the No 1 ranking up for grabs for both players acts as extra motivation, Djokovic added: “Of course it does. Winning Grand Slams and being No 1 in the world is probably the two biggest peaks you can climb as a professional tennis player so lets see what happens.”
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