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Sinner stunner spoils Djokovic party

  • Dan Imhoff

Jannik Sinner will contest his first Grand Slam final after scuttling Novak Djokovic’s bid for a record-extending 11th Australian Open in the semifinals at Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

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The youngest man to reach a final at Melbourne Park since 2008, when his opponent claimed his first major, the 22-year-old regrouped after a third-set tie-break match point slipped his grasp for a 6-1 6-2 6-7(6) 6-3 triumph.

“Awesome. I don’t know what to say really. I came here after a couple of exhibition matches at Kooyong and came here as prepared as possible,” Sinner said. “The confidence from end of last year has for sure kept the belief that I can play against the best players in the world and I’m really happy that I can play Sunday my first [Grand Slam] final.”

Only six months ago, world No.1 Djokovic had few difficulties keeping the Italian contained in the Wimbledon semifinals, but a pair of confidence-boosting wins from three subsequent encounters had invigorated Sinner’s belief.

Sinner claimed two of the pair’s three meetings since then, including a match-points saving effort in the Davis Cup semifinals, but facing the might of the 24-time major champion in a best-of-five-set showdown was an entirely different prospect.

In just his second Grand Slam semifinal, Sinner paid no attention to precedent and after three hours and 23 minutes handed Djokovic his first loss against a top-five opponent at Melbourne Park since he fell to Roger Federer in the fourth round in 2007.

“It was a very, very tough match,” Sinner said. “I started off really well. He missed for two sets. I felt like he wasn’t feeling that great on court, so I just tried to keep pushing and then in the third set I had match point and I missed the forehand, but you know, this is tennis. 

“I just tried to be ready for the next set and obviously the atmosphere was so great.”

In just his second major semifinal, Sinner was quicker out of the blocks, and while it did not sound alarm bells immediately for Djokovic, he was well below his best and struggling to stem the onslaught.



Sinner could not have played a better set. After securing a double break he served it out after just 35 minutes when his opponent floated an uncharacteristically meek sliced forehand long. 

Yet to be tested all tournament, Sinner had just registered his 16th straight set and showed no signs of a let-up as he broke early in the second set and jumped to 4-2 as the match ticked over an hour.

Off balance and out of sorts, Djokovic’s errors off the ground were mounting, such was the relentless offence from the far end.

Sinner could not put a foot wrong and in just 73 minutes had opened an unlikely two-set lead.

This was not unprecedented territory. In the Wimbledon 2022 quarterfinals, just shy of his 20th birthday, the Italian took the opening two sets only for Djokovic to meticulously turn the screws and reel him in.

It was going to be a far more difficult feat for the world No.1 to deny this vastly improved version of Sinner.

In typical Djokovic fashion though, somehow he found a way to prolong his stay.

Djokovic and Sinner after the match

He saved a match point at 5-6 in the tiebreak and forced a fourth set, but the momentum shift was only fleeting. Conceding serve from 40-0 up at 1-2 was the final straw and Sinner never looked back.

“I think we play really similar, and you have to try to return as many balls as possible,” Sinner said. “He’s such an incredible server, so I tried to guess sometimes a little bit also, trying to push, trying to move him around a little bit… It’s always nice to have this kind of player that you can learn from. 

“I lost last year in the semis at Wimbledon. I think I learnt a lot from that and it’s all part of the process.”