Novak Djokovic has kept his unbeatable Australian Open semi-final run alive after a clinical performance against unseeded Russian surprise packet Aslan Karatsev on Thursday night.
The eight-time Australian Open champion has never lost a match at Melbourne Park when he's made the last four and he kept that extraordinary record alive courtesy of a straight sets win over Karatsev on Rod Laver Arena.
Djokovic - chasing his 18th major singles title - rarely looked troubled in the 6-3 6-4 6-2 masterclass against the World No.114.
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The statement win will serve as a huge warning to rivals Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who meet in Friday night's second semi-final for a chance to face Djokovic in the decider.
The Serb played nearly flawless tennis over the first set and the start of the second, where he made just one unforced error in the first 53 minutes of the match.
Karatsev finally managed to break Djokovic's previously impenetrable serve in the second set, before holding his own to edge back into the second stanza at 5-4.
The Russian had Djokovic sweating in a gripping 10th game where he set up two break point chances off the back of some brutal back court hitting.
Djokovic staved off two of those with clutch first serves before coming up big off his own racquet to take a two-sets-to-love lead.
The Serbian star put his foot down at the start of the third, where he grabbed an early break to leave the Russian reeling.
The World No.1 had never lost a grand slam singles match after taking the opening two sets, making Karatsev's task even more formidable.
The Russian had shocked many in the tennis world by knocking out three seeded players on his way to the final four.
However, there was to be no repeat of those heroics on Thursday night as Djokovic mercilessly went about his business.
The writing was on the wall for Karatsev when the Serb grabbed two successive breaks in the third set to set up a chance to serve for the match.
Two successive aces - his 16th and 17th of the match - booked Djokovic's place in a ninth Australian Open final to leave viewers on social media in awe.
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) February 18, 2021
Djokovic freak mode
— Swing and Drive (@swing_drive) February 18, 2021
— Ian Bancroft (@bancroftian) February 18, 2021
NOVAK DJOKOVIC MASTERCLASS.
— G 🏳️🌈 (@gdrixy) February 18, 2021
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) February 18, 2021
— StatsGuy (@StatsGuy5) February 18, 2021
Djokovic is rolling over Karatsev now. Eesh. Lol.#AusOpen
— Biola Solace-Chukwu (@Beeorlicious) February 18, 2021
Djokovic suddenly making Karatsev look like a qualifier. K looks stunned.#AusOpen
— Damian J Byrne (@damianjbyrne) February 18, 2021
You gotta feel for Karatsev, Djokovic playing flawless tennis
— Kent (@goonerkent) February 18, 2021
— luukvangendt (@luukvangendt) February 18, 2021
Djokovic is putting on a show
— Blimey (@ciatronicc1) February 18, 2021
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