Novak Djokovic through to Australian Open final and on course to equal Rafael Nadal’s all-time grand slam record

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Novak Djokovic remains on course to win a record-equaling 22nd grand slam title after beating American Tommy Paul in straight sets in the Australian Open semifinals Friday, setting up a mouthwatering final with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Serbian faced stiff opposition from the big-hitting Paul in his 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory to reach his 33rd grand slam final.

His victory came just hours after Tsitsipas had beaten Russian Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 to reach his second career grand slam final.

The final is set to be a thrilling encounter between the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, with Tsitsipas looking for his first grand slam title and Djokovic just one match away from becoming the world No. 1 again and matching Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 grand slam titles.

Despite battling a hamstring injury in earlier rounds of the tournament, Djokovic has been dominant in Melbourne, sweeping past his last four opponents without dropping a set.

And it looked to be more of the same early on in the semifinal as the 35-year-old raced into a 5-1 lead in the first set. But, Paul – the huge underdog after a dream run to the final – fought back by breaking Djokovic’s serve twice to level the set at 5-5.

Djokovic was able to correct the skid and close out the opening set. As the match progressed, his class showed as he carefully dissected his American opponent, converting seven of 11 break points.

The victory, which took Djokovic two hours and 20 minute, leaves him still in the hunt to claim a record-extending 10th Australian Open title.

Djokovic celebrates winning his semifinal match against Paul.

Djokovic said that his level was “perfect” heading into Sunday’s final.

“Of course, you are not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of of hours in the off season. I know what’s expected and I have been in so many positions in my career,” he said in his on-court interview immediately afterwards.

“It’s a great battle, with yourself and the opponent. Long rallies and you could feel the heavy legs in the first set but I was fortunate to hold my nerves. After that I was swinging through the ball more and I am just pleased to get through another final.”

More to follow…

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