Sinner ends Djokovic's unbeaten streak in Australian Open semis

Sinner ends Djokovic’s unbeaten streak in Australian Open semis

/ 05:10 PM January 26, 2024

Jannik Sinner Novak Djokovic Australian Open 2024

Jannik Sinner, right, of Italy is congratulated by Novak Djokovic of Serbia following their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Jannik Sinner has upset Novak Djokovic to reach the Australian Open men’s final, ending the 10-time champion’s career unbeaten semifinal streak at Melbourne Park.

The 22-year-old Italian broke Djokovic’s serve twice in each of the first two sets but missed a match point in the third set of a 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory Friday that earned him a place in a Grand Slam singles final for the first time.

On his second match point, 55 minutes later, he made no mistake and completed his third win in four head-to-head encounters since a straight-set loss to Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon semifinals.

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“It’s always nice to have this kind of player who you can learn from,” Sinner said in his on-court TV interview. “I lost last year in the semifinals in Wimbledon and I learned a lot from that. The confidence from the end of last year has for sure kept the belief that I can play the best players in the world.”

The youngest player to reach the men’s final in Australia since Djokovic’s first title in 2008, Sinner will play either third-seeded Daniil Medvedev or No. 6 Alexander Zverev for the championship on Sunday.

Djokovic’s bid for a record-extending 11th Australian and 25th major title overall will have to wait.

He hadn’t lost a match at Melbourne Park since 2018 and was on a 33-match winning streak at the season’s first major. Every previous time he’d won a quarterfinal in Australia, Djokovic had gone on to win the hardcourt title.

“He’s deservedly in the finals. He outplayed me completely,” Djokovic said. “Look, I was, in a way, shocked with my level — in a bad way. There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets.

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“Yeah, I guess this is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played. At least that I remember.”

READ: Jannik Sinner lays out Australian Open title credentials

Sinner took the first two sets in under 1 1/4 hours in an astonishing start to the match.

But Djokovic picked up his service percentage, cut down his unforced errors and and upped the pressure on Sinner in the third.

Djokovic was serving at 5-5 and at deuce when play was interrupted while a spectator received medical help in the stands. After ambulance officers helped the man walk out, Djokovic held serve and saved a match point at 5-6 in the tiebreaker.

Djokovic won three straight points to force a fourth set, but was immediately in trouble again on his serve.

Jannik Sinner Novak Djokovic Australian Open 2024

Jannik Sinner of Italy celebrates after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

He fended off three break points to hold from 15-40 down in the second game of the fourth but Sinner got a decisive service break in the fourth game, winning five straight points from 40-0 down to take a 3-1 lead.

Continuous chants of “Nole, Nole, Nole, Nole” echoed around Rod Laver Arena between big points from Djokovic fans encouraging their champion, giving it a football vibe.

It helped lift the intensity of both players.

The chair umpire asked spectators three times to keep quiet with Sinner serving for the match.

The loss to Djokovic at Wimbledon has become a turning point in their rivalry. After losing the first three meetings, Sinner won two of the next three — all in November — in the group stage of the ATP Finals in Turin and in the Davis Cup semifinals.

Sinner was the only player in the final four who didn’t drop a set in the tournament, and he spent almost four fewer hours on court through five rounds than Djokovic, who was taken to four sets three times.

Still, the odds were stacked against fourth-seeded Sinner.

But he played calm, nearly flawless tennis in the first two sets and piled pressure on Djokovic’s serve in a relatively cool 21 degrees Celsius (70 Fahrenheit) and a light breeze.

He was holding his serve with relative ease against a player contesting a 48th Grand Slam semifinal.

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Djokovic rallied, as he always does, to make Sinner win it. But he had few chances and didn’t get a look at a break point in the match — the first time he’s experienced that in a completed Grand Slam match.

The 36-year-old Serbian star missed his first chance to be just the third person in history to win 11 titles at any Grand Slam event — Rafael Nadal has 14 French Open titles and Margaret Court won 11 Australian Open women’s titles.

TAGS: Australian Open, Jannik Sinner, Novak Djokovic

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