February 16, 2021
Novak Djokovic used a huge tantrum to fire himself up and reach his 39th Grand Slam semi-final.
His opponent will be the unknown Russian qualifier, Aslan Karatsev.
Sascha Zverev will think it should have been him facing the underdog next. One day soon he will break through that psychological barrier and overcome top three players at Slams.
Maybe Zverev’s big tournament will prove to be Wimbledon 2021.
The big German is moving in the right direction.
Against Djokovic he won the opening set, led 4-1 in the third and 3-0 in the fourth. He even had set point to take the match to a decider.
But Novak is a very special human being when it comes to psychological warfare.
No one was all that surprised when he found a way to win 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6).
He even managed to out-ace Zverev with cunning angles and supreme accuracy more than raw power.
The key moment came when Sascha had moved to 4-1 in that pivotal third set.
Djokovic destroyed his racquet with three furious downward blows against the playing surface.
The next game was delayed while an unfortunate ball-girl was given the tortuous task of sweeping up the debris.
Novak had let out all his frustration and was soon ready to go. But Sascha’s momentum had been shattered with the racquet.
He had other opportunities but never looked quite so dominant again.
So Djokovic plays Karatsev, who defeated Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 after the Bulgarian’s back started to play up.
Novak said later: ‘Tough luck for Grigor with the injury. Too many injuries, the quarantine has taken its toll.
‘As for me it’s not the first time I’ve had an injury but with the magic hands of the physio and by not practising on days off, hopefully the next result will be the same for me.
‘I hadn’t seen Karatsev play before this Australian Open. He is very strong physically and moves well. He has big firepower from the back of the court and a great backhand, straight from the Russian school of tennis.’
Even so, Novak should negotiate that one and reach yet another final in Melbourne. He will be most vulnerable in the opening set, you suspect.
Djokovic explained: ‘I need time to warm up. After the first tie-break I started playing and moving better. It was emotional, there were a lot of nerves out there and I feel a bit drained.’
This Australian Open has been full of drama.
We think Wimbledon 2021 will be even more memorable.