Tennis: Djokovic locks up number one spot ahead of Australian Open final shootout

AFP , Thursday 25 Jan 2024

Novak Djokovic meets Jannik Sinner for a place in the Australian Open final on Friday, boosted by the knowledge he cannot be toppled as world number one after the shock exit of Carlos Alcaraz.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic attends a training session on day 12 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2024. Photo: AFP


The Serbian superstar will resume his march towards an 11th title and a record 25th Grand Slam crown in the afternoon session on Rod Laver Arena, again bumped from his favoured evening slot.

The 36-year-old complained about feeling "trapped" by the oppressive heat on court when he battled past Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals as the temperatures topped 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).

It is forecast to be about 10 degrees cooler on Friday, and Djokovic is determined to keep intact his 33-match unbeaten streak at Melbourne Park stretching back to 2018.

He did not compete at the event in 2022 due to his coronavirus vaccination status.

"I'm aware of the streak that I'm on and the amount of matches that I have won in my career on the Rod Laver Arena. I don't want to let that go," he said.

"The longer the streak goes, the more that kind of confidence, also expectations built, but also the willingness to really walk the extra mile, so to say."

Whatever happens, he will remain world number one.

Djokovic, Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev all began the season's first major with a chance to depart Melbourne as the top-ranked player.

But after Alcaraz's defeat to Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals, the Serb cannot be supplanted.

If Medvedev wins the title, he will claim Alcaraz's world number two spot.

Italian fourth seed Sinner is in the form of his life and will take comfort from beating Djokovic at the ATP Finals and Davis Cup late last season.

"This is what I practise for, to play against the best players in the world," said the 22-year-old, who is targeting a maiden Grand Slam title.

"Obviously has an incredible record here, so for me it's a pleasure to play against him, especially in the final stages of the tournament where things are a little bit more interesting.

"I'm looking forward to it, to be honest. It's going to be tough."

Extremely confident

Sixth seed Zverev is through to the last four after his upset of Alcaraz, weathering a big fightback from the Spaniard over four sets to earn a showdown with Medvedev.

He has played the Russian third seed 18 times before, and has lost five of the past six.

"A lot of matches were extremely close, obviously," said the 26-year-old German, who is still searching for a breakthrough Grand Slam title.

"You know, a lot of the times it came down to him being extremely confident last year, him playing some of the best tennis of his life, and me coming back from injury and not having the confidence in deciding moments.

"But yeah, he's obviously extremely difficult to play. No question about it. He's one of the best players in the world right now."

Medvedev is into an eighth major semi-final, but has only won one title -- at the 2021 US Open.

He made the final at Melbourne in 2021 and 2022, but succumbed to Novak Djokovic then Rafael Nadal, and has made clear he wants to go the way this time.

Despite being broken 18 times during the tournament and being forced to fight through two gruelling five setters, he is not concerned about his form.

"I see Novak I think got broken also. It's maybe something with the balls or the court," he said.

"I'm really not too much worried about this, especially when you win matches. I feel like I'm actually serving good. But, yeah, good that I manage to be in the semis getting broken 18 times."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

Short link: