More Sports / Tennis

Djokovic, Nadal renew rivalry

Reuters

If Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open semifinal win over Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas was one-sided, Novak Djokovic showed he could be even more brutal in his victory against Lucas Pouille on Friday.

Nadal only needed 1 hour and 46 minutes to wrap up his victory on Thursday, while giving away just six games against the 20-year-old Tsitsipas.

The Spaniard’s dominance over an opponent who had turned heads at Melbourne Park with his daredevil approach was remarkable and meant Djokovic had a point to prove when he took to the court against Pouille.

The six-time champion did not disappoint. He took 23 minutes and two games fewer than Nadal to storm into his seventh Australian Open final with a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 demolition job.

Asked if he went in with the intention of conceding fewer games than Nadal, Djokovic replied with a broad grin: “Yes. It was hard to do that, but somehow managed.

“He (Nadal) has played impressively well throughout the entire tournament. He hasn’t dropped a set. He looked as good as ever on the hardcourt throughout these few weeks. I haven’t played bad myself the last couple matches.”

Spaniard David Ferrer won only five games against Djokovic in the 2013 semifinals, but Friday’s match was even more lopsided. The Serb committed five unforced errors, 22 fewer than Pouille, while also hitting six more winners.

Djokovic said he played perfectly from the first to the last point and felt “divine” on the court.

“You just happen to be in that zone that we all strive for,” he said. “Every professional athlete wants to be in the zone, where everything flows so effortlessly and you are executing automatically everything you are intending to execute.

“You don’t need to think too much. I guess you’re driven by some force that takes over you and you feel divine, you feel like in a different dimension. It’s quite an awesome feeling that we all try to reach and stay in.”

The last time Djokovic faced Nadal, who has won 17 Grand Slam titles, at Rod Laver Arena, the Serb won an epic that took 5 hours and 53 minutes at the 2012 tournament, the longest Grand Slam final on record.

Djokovic said his battles against Nadal over the years have made him the player he is today.

“He’s my biggest rival in my career. I’ve played so many matches against him, epic matches on this court,” said Djokovic, winner of 14 major titles.

“Of course, the one that stands out was the final . . . in 2012. Hopefully we don’t go that long this time. But I’m sure we’re going to have a good final.

“These are the kind of matches that you live for, finals of Slams, playing the greatest rivals at their best. What more can you ask for? This is where you want to be.”

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5