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Dominant Djokovic dismantles Pouille to set up mouth-watering Australian Open final against Nadal

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 25 Jan 2019
  • Novak Djokovic blew away Lucas Pouille 6-0 6-2 6-2 to advance to his seventh Australian Open final
  • Djokovic to play Nadal in Sunday's final
Novak Djokovic. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

World No. 1, Novak Djokovic set up an Australian Open final showdown with great rival, Rafael Nadal after a dominant 6-0 6-2 6-2 victory over Frenchman, Lucas Pouille on Friday night.

Djokovic extends his unbeaten Australian Open semi-final record to 7-0, and will go for a record-breaking seventh title in Melbourne when he plays Nadal on Sunday. The super Serbian is currently tied with Roger Federer and Roy Emerson on six titles.

Sunday’s match against Nadal will be a repeat of their epic 2012 final, which Djokovic won after five hours and 53 minutes. His Australian Open progress continues a remarkable transformation of fortunes for the world No. 1. Twelve months ago, he crashed out in the fourth round of the Australian Open, underwent elbow surgery, and was out of the top 20 in May, but a spectacular second half of the season saw him reclaim the world No. 1 ranking, following Grand Slam successes at Wimbledon and the US Open. Now, he stands one win away from winning his third successive Grand Slam title.

“I’ve said before that I always had belief in myself, and self-belief always prevails”, Djokovic said. “There was always part of me, and still is, that believed that I can play this way. That’s the key – always relying on your qualities and trusting the process will turn out the way you want it to.”

Djokovic hadn’t had things all his way at this year’s Australian Open, as he dropped sets against young guns, Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev, but he produced by far his best performance of the fortnight on Friday, dismantling Pouille for the loss of just four games. Pouille is not a bad player- he has five tour titles, has been to two Grand Slam quarter finals, has beaten Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro in Grand Slam matches, and been as high as No. 10 in the world, but Djokovic reduced him to a complete rookie in a performance of ruthless consistency and efficiency. All of his great attributes were firing on Friday night. He struck the ball with surgical length and precision and suffocated Pouille with his trademark defence, all of this without never really appearing to over-exert himself. Pouille just couldn’t find any way to hurt him.

Competing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, and taking on Djokovic for the first time in his career, Pouille actually played a decent first game, taking Djokovic to deuce, but once Djokovic got the hold, the world No. 1 turned on the steamroller.

Pouille did well to fend off two break points in his opening service game, finding two big first serves to escape a 15-40 hole, but Djokovic was relentless in his pursuit of the early break, and a stunning forehand that curled onto the line after a draining rally brought up a third break point of the game. It was all too much for Pouille, who cracked with a double fault while going for a big second serve.

With a first serve percentage dropping below 50%, Pouille was always asking for trouble, and he got it with Djokovic- arguably the greatest returner of all time. The Serbian broke again for a 4-0, and then again to complete the bagel- the highlight of that final game being an outrageous inside-in backhand return winner at 15-all. 

Pouille finally got on the board in his opening service game of the second set, helped by a couple of delightful drop-shot-forehand pass combination, jolting the crown to life as a result, but the reprieve wouldn’t last too long as Djokovic had him under siege again when the Frenchman next stepped up to serve.  A missed backhand from Pouille handed Djokovic his first break point of the set, and the world No. 1 bagged the break when his opponent double faulted- while yet again going for a big second serve. The six-time champion broke again in the eighth game to take a two-set lead.

The third set bore a striking resemblance to the second, with Djokovic breaking in the fourth and eight games to complete an absolutely dominant victory.

“It’s definitely one of the best matches I ever had on this court,” said Djokovic. “Everything worked the way I imagined, and even more so.  
“Tough one for Lucas, but he had a great tournament. He definitely has the quality to be a top-10 player. It was his first semifinal, and the occasion is different, there’s more weight in the match. He’s going to get more of these types of matches in the late stages of Grand Slams.”

The Serbian lost only eight points on serve all match, winning over 80% of points on both his first and second serves, and offering no break points to his opponent. The world No. 1 hit 25 winners and just five unforced errors in the one hour 25-minute demolition job.

If Rafael Nadal’s crushing victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas 24 hours earlier was a statement of intent, this was the perfect response from Djokovic. It should be an amazing final on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal is live from Melbourne on Sunday, 27 January from 7:30pm local time/ 8:30am GMT

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Dominant Djokovic dismantles Pouille to set up mouth-watering Australian Open final against Nadal

Novak Djokovic put in a masterful performance to dispatch Lucas Pouille, and set up an Australian Open final showdown with Rafael Nadal.

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