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Sinner hoping Rublev test helps for Djokovic showdown

  • Lee Goodall

Fifteen sets played, 15 sets won for Jannik Sinner. The 22-year-old’s Italian Job on the Melbourne Park field is still very much on track.

The world No.4 played some big tennis at key moments to record his fifth successive straight-sets victory of the fortnight against Andrey Rublev on Tuesday, a result that puts the youngster into his second Grand Slam semifinal and his first at Melbourne Park.

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The fourth seed’s 6-4 7-6(5) 6-3 win didn’t come without its drama, however, as he recovered from 1-5 down in the second set tiebreak and saved eight break points.

After two days’ rest, the right-hander from the South Tyrol mountains in northeast Italy will be back to face one of the toughest tests in tennis, aiming to snap 10-time champion Novak Djokovic’s 33-match win streak at the Australian Open.

Sinner is relishing another chance to take on the world’s best player having scored his first two singles wins over the Serb towards the end of last season.

He beat Djokovic during the group stages of the ATP Finals in Turin before the Serb got his revenge in the final that week.

Incredibly, the Italian then beat Djokovic twice on the same day - in singles and in doubles - as Italy beat Serbia in the Davis Cup semifinals in Malaga.

“This is what I practice for, to play against the best players in the world,” said Sinner as he looked ahead to Friday’s meeting.

“[Novak] 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 gonna be tough. I will control the controllable, which is giving 100 per cent, having the right attitude, fighting for every ball. And then we see the outcome, no?”

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A win would send Sinner through to his first Grand Slam final, something many pundits, prior to AO 2024, believed was possible for the Italian given his incredible form in the latter stages of 2023.

As well as having to play his best tennis on Friday, Sinner knows he will need to be at his peak physically. With two days’ rest ahead of him, though, he says recovery shouldn’t be a problem.

“Tomorrow I'm gonna hit half an hour, 45 minutes, really late of the day, just to touch the ball a little bit,” he said.

“Then after, you know, trying to sleep as much as possible, trying to recover. I feel quite confident too that my body is gonna recover in the best possible way.”

Sinner also believes that staying tough during the big moments in his quarter-final against Rublev – particularly saving all eight break points and turning around the second set tiebreak – will stand him in good stead for the semis.

“There were a lot of pressure points, which most of the time they went my way, so I'm very happy. I was prepared for a tough match today," he said.

“Obviously when you win a crucial set like this, it helps a little bit for the third set, but happy that I had some tough moments today. 

“I think I handled it in a good way, in a right way, and hopefully it's gonna help me for the next match.”