The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
View E-Paper

Sinner ends 10-time champion Djokovic's Australian Open streak, faces Medvedev for title

Associated Press Friday, 26 January 2024, 15:41 Last update: about 4 months ago

Jannik Sinner ended one of Novak Djokovic's perfect streaks in an Australian Open upset and then got to relax while Daniil Medvedev rallied from two sets down to beat Alexander Zverev after midnight to secure the other place in the final.

For a self-described tennis fan, just everything went Sinner's way in the semifinals Friday.

The 22-year-old Italian broke Djokovic’s serve twice in each of the first two sets in a surprisingly lopsided 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory that ended the 10-time champion's unbeaten streak in semifinals at Rod Laver Arena.

Almost an hour after missing a match point in the tiebreaker, Sinner converted his second to complete his third win in four head-to-heads since losing to Djokovic in last year's Wimbledon semifinals.

“I learned a lot from that,” he said of that Wimbledon loss and his subsequent wins. "It gives you a better feeling when you know that you can beat one player.

"The confidence from the end of last year has for sure kept the belief.”

Third-seeded Medvedev appeared down and out after two sets, and was two points from losing in the fourth, but rallied to beat Zverev 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3 after 4 hours, 18 minutes.

“I was a little bit lost, but during the third set I started saying ‘If I lose this match, I just want to be proud of myself,’” said Medvedev, who has lost two finals in Australia, including one from two sets up. “I'm proud of myself.”

Zverev's run drew attention on and off the court after news emerged that a German court set a trial date in May over an assault allegation dating to 2020. The Olympic gold medalist has denied the accusations since last July when details of the case became public.

After winning the first two sets, Zverev got within a couple of swings of the racket of making a second Grand Slam final. Instead it will be Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion whose run here included a grueling second-round win that finished at almost 4 in the morning, who will be aiming for a second major title.

Sinner will be the youngest player to contest the men's final in Australia since Djokovic won the first of his 10 titles here in 2008.

A record-extending 11th Australian and 25th major title overall will have to wait for Djokovic.

He hadn’t lost a match at Melbourne Park since a fourth-round exit in 2018, had never lost after reaching the final four, and was on a 33-match winning streak at the season’s first major.

“He’s deservedly in the finals. He outplayed me completely,” Djokovic said. "Look, I was shocked with my level — in a bad way. There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets.

“This is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played — at least that I remember.”

Djokovic didn’t get a look at a break point at all — the first time he’s experienced that in a completed Grand Slam match.

“That stat says a lot,” Djokovic said. "First of all, he was serving very accurately, precise, he was backing his serve very well.

“There’s a lot of negative things that I’ve done on the court today in terms of my game. Everything ... was just subpar.”

Sinner took the first two sets in under 1 1/4 hours in mild afternoon conditions in an astonishing start against a player who lost only one Grand Slam match last year — the Wimbledon final against Alcaraz.

Djokovic, as he so often does, picked up his service percentage, cut down his unforced errors and and upped the pressure in the third.

He was serving at 5-5 and at deuce when play was interrupted briefly while a spectator received medical help in the stands. Djokovic then held serve and saved a match point before taking the set in a tiebreaker.

But he was immediately in trouble again on his serve.

He fended off three break points to hold from 15-40 down in the second game of the fourth but Sinner got a decisive service break in the fourth game, winning five straight points from 40-0 down to take a 3-1 lead.

Continuous chants of “Nole, Nole, Nole, Nole” echoed around Rod Laver Arena between big points from Djokovic fans encouraging their champion, giving it a football vibe.

It helped lift the intensity of both players.

The chair umpire asked spectators three times to keep quiet with Sinner serving for the match.

The loss to Djokovic at Wimbledon has become a turning point in their rivalry. After losing the first three meetings, Sinner won two of the next three — all in November — in the group stage of the ATP Finals in Turin and in the Davis Cup semifinals.

“I think you win the matches not only on that day, you win it because you feel prepared for a good fight,” Sinner said. “After last year, especially end of the year, gave me confidence that I could potentially do some good results in Grand Slams.”

The 36-year-old Djokovic missed his first chance to be just the third person in history to win 11 titles at any Grand Slam event — Rafael Nadal has 14 French Open titles and Margaret Court won 11 women’s titles in Australia.

“This tournament hasn’t been up to my standard ... but doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s beginning of the end," he said. "Let’s see what happens in the rest of the season.”

  • don't miss