The eight time champion at Melbourne Park takes on the Australian Open qualifier and Grand Slam debutant, when Novak Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev meet in the early hours of Thursday morning with a spot in the 2021 Australian Open final on the line.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs Aslan Karatsev – From 3.30AM ET Thursday @ Rod Laver Arena
In what is essentially a David vs Goliath matchup, Aslan Karatsev, who is a qualifier in his debut Grand Slam, will take on the most successful player in the history of the Australian Open for a spot in the 2021 final at Melbourne Park.
To put things into perspective, Novak Djokovic is currently competing to win his 18th Grand Slam title, while Karatsev has played just 18 Grand Slam sets.
After dropping the opening set of his quarter-final match against Alexander Zverev, Djokovic won the second, third and fourth sets to seal a 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 victory and advance to his ninth Australian Open semifinal.
It hasn’t been the dominant performance at Melbourne Park that we have come to expect from the world No. 1, as Djokovic has dropped at least one set in each of his matches since the first round. Djokovic has also been managing an apparent abdominal tear that he sustained in his third round match against Taylor Fritz.
➡️Ranked #253 after the pandemic break
➡️Qualified in Doha
➡1st *ever* player to reach the SFs on his Grand Slam debut
➡️5th ever qualifier to reach a Slam SF.
➡️ Will rise to inside the top 50 next Monday.
One of the best stories in recent years pic.twitter.com/WzJ63tHCmp
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) February 16, 2021
Meanwhile, Russia’s Aslan Karatsev has continued his fairytale run at the Australian Open, becoming the first man in the Open Era to reach a semifinal on his Grand Slam debut following his 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over an injured Grigor Dimitrov.
Although Dimitrov was suffering from back spasms, Karatsev had taken a 2-1 lead prior to the 18th seeds medical time-out. With wins over Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger-Aliassime and now Grigor Dimitrov, Karatsev has consecutively defeated three top 20 ranked opponents to secure his place in the 2021 Australian Open semifinals.
As has been the case since sustaining the injury, Djokovic’s health will be a big factor in this match, however the Serbian has looked every bit of a 17 time Grand Slam champion in his recent matches against Zverev and Milos Raonic.
Given that he has played more sets than usual by this stage in the tournament plus the injury, Djokovic has been putting more effort into his first serve while also trying to win points quickly. These changes have been implemented to limit the duress that Djokovic is putting on his body, with the goal of keeping the world No.1 mentally and physically fresher.
As was reflected in Djokovic’s quarterfinal victory, that saw his desire to hit winners and maintain shorter rallies result in the world No. 1 committing 56 unforced errors against Alexander Zverev.
Karatsev on the other hand will be advantaged having not played Djokovic before, as the world No. 1’s game plan and preparation will be hindered by the lack of experience and knowledge of the world No. 114 very unknown style of play.
Karatsev looks to be entering every match with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude, hitting winners with tremendous power and not being fazed by his opponent nor the big stage.
However, as incredible a run as this has been for the world No. 114, defeating Djokovic at Melbourne Park looks like it will be a bridge too far, as the eight time Grand Slam champion (who has never been eliminated in the semi’s) will once again advance to the final at Melbourne Park.
Head to Head – Novak Djokovic (-1500)
Games Spread – Aslan Karatsev +7.5 (-120)
Sets Handicap – Aslan Karatsev +2.5 (+105)
We’ve got 14 days of hard core tennis action, so strap yourself in!
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