Novak Djokovic aces Taylor Fritz test to reach Australian Open semi-final

Serbian great overcomes American in Melbourne heat on Tuesday, Coco Gauff battles past Marta Kostyuk

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Novak Djokovic survived another stern test at the Australian Open as he sealed a 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over 12th-seeded American Taylor Fritz on Tuesday and moved into a record-extending 48th Grand Slam semi-final.

The 36-year-old came into the match boasting a perfect 8-0 record against the American, and it seemed business as usual as the Serb edged a gruelling first set that lasted 84 minutes in sultry conditions.

Fritz, 26, had two set points on the Djokovic serve in the 12th game but the Serbian countered them and dominated the subsequent tiebreak to take control.

The top seed left the court after the first set and when he returned he suffered the first break of the match. Fritz, who survived eight break points in the opening set, fought off seven more points during the second set to pull level.

Djokovic finally won a break point at his 16th attempt to take control of the third set and broke again to leave himself one set away from victory.

The Serb broke for the third time in the match in the sixth game of the fourth set when Fritz dumped a forehand into the net. A lucky net cord helped the American break back to stay alive but he double faulted in the following game to hand the initiative back to Djokovic.

"I suffered a lot first couple of sets, also due to his high quality tennis. He was serving well, he was staying close to the line and suffocating me from the back of the court," Djokovic said in an on-court interview with Nick Kyrgios.

"I was on my back foot for most of the rallies. It was difficult to find the right timing. It was extremely hot while the sun was still out there. Physically very draining, emotionally as well."

Djokovic cooled off by placing ice packs on his head in the third set, an unusual situation for the Serb who is used to playing in Melbourne in the evening.

"The conversion of the break points was really poor but at the end of the day, I managed to break him when it mattered in the third and the fourth," Djokovic added.

"I think I upped my game probably midway through the third set to the end. I served extremely well, I probably had more aces than he did (20-16) which is a surprise stat."

Meanwhile, defending champion Aryna Sabalenka stormed past ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova and into an Australian Open semi-final with Coco Gauff.

The world number two was untouchable in a commanding 6-2, 6-3 victory on Rod Laver Arena to reach the last four at a Grand Slam for the sixth consecutive time.

US Open champion Gauff, however, was put through her paces before outlasting unseeded Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 after more than three hours.

The 19-year-old struggled on serve and wasted countless opportunities. She admitted it was a below-par showing, giving herself only a 'C' rating.

"Hopefully got the bad match out of the way and I can play even better," she said.

The low standard was not confined to Gauff, with the pair making a staggering 107 unforced errors between them.

Kostyuk rued missing her chances, letting slip a 5-1 lead and squandering set points in the first set, but said she was proud of how she fought.

"Very proud of myself. I won for myself today, and I think it's the most important thing," said the 21-year-old.

Gauff also faltered at crunch moments, broken when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set before keeping her cool as Kostyuk became more agitated in the deciding set.

Updated: January 23, 2024, 12:44 PM