Novak Djokovic outclasses Andrey Rublev to cruise into Australian Open semi-finals

Nine-time champion dominated the Russian fifth seed to set up clash with American Tommy Paul

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev were separated by just one place in the Australian Open seedings but these two players were worlds apart when they met in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Djokovic, the record nine-time champion, was always favourite for this match against the fifth-seeded Russian but the 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 scoreline demonstrated the gulf in class that continues to exist between the Serb and pretty much everyone else.

Rublev could have played better to make it a more competitive contest but that's what happens against Djokovic; he nullifies his opponent's strengths and exposes their weaknesses, all while outplaying them in practically every facet of the game.

And that's exactly what the 21-time major champion did to Rublev inside Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic, who showed no signs of the hamstring issues that had hampered his movement earlier in the tournament, outplayed Rublev on serve and return, dominated him from the baseline in long rallies and short, and generally outthought and outclassed the Russian.

Rublev had his moments. He created five break-point opportunities but ultimately converted none. He pushed Djokovic beyond deuce in 10 games but more often than not, the clutch points went the way of the Serb.

After two hours and three minutes, Rublev was finally put out of his misery as Djokovic set up a semi-final showdown with unseeded American Tommy Paul, his 26th straight match win in Melbourne drawing him level with Andre Agassi's all-time record.

It also marked the 44th time that Djokovic reached the last four at the Grand Slams, leaving him six ahead of Rafael Nadal and only two behind his other great rival and 20-times major champion Roger Federer.

"I can't be happier with my tennis, I was solid from the back of the court. I love these conditions, this court, it's definitely special for me," said Djokovic, who rated this performance a "close second" to his mesmeric victory over Alex De Minaur in the fourth round.

"I'm going to keep going. I think it's important to be smart and wise with the body in these circumstances where it's more important to recover and get ready for the next challenge.

"The scoreline in the opening two sets does not show the reality," Djokovic, 35, added rather modestly. "Andrey's a great opponent, he has one of the biggest forehands. I knew the gameplan, but it's one thing to imagine and another to execute."

Following two masterclass displays, Djokovic will be heavily-fancied for his semi-final against world No 35 Paul, who defeated fellow American Ben Shelton 7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the earlier quarter-final on Wednesday.

"Obviously he doesn't have much to lose being in the semi-finals for the first time. He has been playing terrific tennis in the last 15 months," Djokovic said, turning his attention to his next opponent.

"I have to be ready for the match mentally and not approach it differently. If I play this way, I have a good chance to go through."

A good chance indeed, if history, form, and any other conceivable metric are anything to go by. Djokovic has a perfect semi-final conversion rate in Melbourne: nine matches, nine wins, and ultimately, nine titles. Extend that perfect record and Djokovic will be back where he belongs as the world No 1 by the end of the tournament.

The man tasked with halting the juggernaut is a player whose previous best showing at the Australian Open was the third round in 2020 and whose deepest run at a Grand Slam was last year's fourth round at Wimbledon.

Paul, though, is ready to embrace the moment of facing the tournament's greatest ever male champion.

"To play Novak in Australia would be awesome," Paul said during his press conference during Djokovic's match against Rublev. "Obviously he's pretty comfortable here in Australia so it's going to be a challenging match, but I've been playing some of my best tennis, so it's a good time."

Updated: January 25, 2023, 1:39 PM