Novak Djokovic has only contributed to the conspiracy theories surrounding his mysterious injury at the Australian Open, saying he felt the best he's felt all tournament in his semi-final thrashing of Aslan Karatsev.
The World No.1 continued his love affair with Melbourne Park on Thursday night and will be a warm favourite to win his ninth Australian Open title in the final.
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Djokovic downed the Russian qualifier 6-3 6-4 6-2 in one hour and 55 minutes to set up a title decider with the winner of Friday's match between Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Addressing the mysterious abdominal injury he suffered in the third round, Djokovic said: "This is the best I felt in the entire tournament.
"I felt great. This is the best match so far and it came at the right time.
“I could swing through the ball. No pain. The best match so far.
“Couldn’t be better timing for me to play my best tennis.”
Last week Djokovic made the shock admission that he was unlikely to play his fourth-round clash with Milos Raonic, claiming he'd suffered a muscle tear.
But his performances ever since have left fans questioning the extent of the injury.
The World No.1 even said the injury has improved to a degree that he will recommence training on Saturday.
“I am surprised the way I felt tonight. I think it surpassed my greatest wishes,” he said.
“I just have … this pretty good ability to recover fast.
"The way I felt today I like my chances and I'm definitely going to go for a title."
Real Bruce Reid areas from Djokovic. Told anyone prepared to listen he had “definitely” torn a muscle. Snapped in half, held together with sticky tape. Now miraculously better again within days. Can’t fault his tennis. Bloody hard to cheer for him #12man
— Jon Ralph (@RalphyHeraldSun) February 18, 2021
I want either Titsispas or Medvedev to win because they have been honest and have not used a false injury as a strategy like Djokovic, the AUO must to take action against these fake injuries, honesty and professional ethics must prevail in sport
— Horacio Luki (@HoracioLuki) February 18, 2021
Nadal and Federer have nothing to do with Djokovic faking injuries. It's disgusting. As a sports fan it's disgraceful.
— TJ (@Tjswrite) February 14, 2021
Can't believe Novak Djokovic faked a whole injury this #ausopen against Fritz
— Bonga Dlulane (@BongaDlulane) February 18, 2021
Fairly standard #AustralianOpen by the looks of things. Djokovic pretending to have an injury during a tough match in the early rounds and then miraculously coming through to win the tournament
— Stuart Herrington (@Stuhezza) February 18, 2021
That's a shame. Maybe he should ask Djokovic for the secret of healing abdominal injuries in the minimum of time.
— Kathleen Mellor (@KathleenMellor6) February 18, 2021
Djokovic ends Karatsev's fairytale run
Outplayed but rarely outgunned, Karatsev is projected to rise from No.114 to 42 after becoming the first grand slam debutant to make the semi-finals in the Open Era.
It had been a barely believable run from the muscular Muscovite, winning through three qualifying matches in Doha and another five in Melbourne to make the last four.
The ending was perhaps predictable but the scoreline didn't reveal the true nature of the contest, Karatsev refusing to be bullied by the 17-time grand slam champion.
He went toe-to-toe with Djokovic for much of the first set, catching the world No.1 out on more than one occasion with his late shot selection and powerful forehand.
A break in the eighth game was enough to seal the set for Djokovic and he put the foot down with two more in the second.
But the 27-year-old didn't become the first grand slam semi-finalist ranked outside the top 100 in 20 years without showing considerable backbone.
He broke back once and held another break point to bring the match back on serve but couldn't quite pull it off as Djokovic made it two sets to love.
The third followed a similar pattern - Djokovic breaking only for Karatsev to manhandle his way back into the contest - before the 33-year-old closed down the match.
"There is a huge level, I mean the difference is really big," said Karatsev of stepping up to play one of the game's all-time greats as opposed to players in and around the top 20.
"He doesn't give you free points. On my serve it's like every point you have to take, you have to play the rally."
Djokovic is already a record eight from eight in Australian Open finals and it will take something special to prevent it from becoming a perfect nine.
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