In the Australian Open semi-finals, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost just four games across three sets against Frenchman Lucas Pouille in just 83 minutes. It was clear from just minutes into their Western & Southern Open quarter-final Friday evening that this would be a much closer match. But still, the result remained the same.
Defending champion Djokovic defeated Pouille 7-6(2), 6-1 in one hour and 26 minutes to reach the semi-finals in Cincinnati. The Serbian has made at least the last four in five consecutive tournaments he has played, and the top seed is into the semi-finals at this ATP Masters 1000 event for the seventh time.
“I thought he played really well throughout the first set. We both held our service games quite comfortably until the tie-break and then I just stayed in there, very focussed, didn’t drop my level. He did,” Djokovic said. “[He] double faulted and missed a couple of forehands and obviously that cost him the tie-break.”
Djokovic is now 63-14 in quarter-finals at this level, and he is two victories away from lifting his 34th Masters 1000 trophy, which would move him to within one crown of Rafael Nadal’s record 35. A year ago, Djokovic completed his Career Golden Masters in Cincinnati.
Pouille was sharp from the baseline from the early moments of this match, showing no fear of going after his shots, even with Djokovic’s relentless defence. But even though he saved the only break point he faced to get to a tie-break in the first set, Pouille was unable to sustain all parts of his game
The Frenchman played a loose tie-break, making mistakes he had not throughout the majority of the set. Pouille was then broken in his first service game of the second set. And although he earned three break points to get back on serve in the next game, Djokovic held his serve and never looked back.
“The beginning of the second set I knew it was very important to try to break his serve right away and get into an advantage, which I did,” Djokovic said. “I managed to finish off the match really well.”
The key was Pouille’s declining first-serve percentage during the match, falling from 68 per cent in the opener to 43 per cent in the second set. That made playing aggressively from the baseline more and more difficult, as Djokovic pressured the World No. 31 immediately.
Djokovic will next face red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev, who will try to make his second Masters 1000 final in as many weeks. The World No. 1 leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-1, but Medvedev won their most recent meeting at this year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
Did You Know?
Djokovic is pushing to retake the lead in the ATP Race To London. Nadal seized the top spot on Monday after winning the Coupe Rogers. But if Djokovic advances to Sunday’s final, he will regain the advantage in the battle for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking.