Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev saw his dream run come to an abrupt end as Novak Djokovic stormed into the final of the 2021 Australian Open with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory.
The world number one, who has fended off a persistent abdominal injury for much of the tournament, was simply too strong for the unseeded Karatsev on Rod Laver Arena.
Djokovic has now reached the final at Melbourne Park on nine occasions, and the 33-year-old has triumphed on each of the last eight occasions.
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It was a bruising encounter for the doughty Karatsev, who stunned everyone by reaching the last four, with the Serb content to simply wear him out in gruelling rallies and dominate the big points.
Karatsev showcased his thunderous cross-court forehand on numerous occasions and managed to break Djokovic in both the second and third sets, but ultimately to little avail.
The reigning champion always seemed to have an extra gear to go to at key moments in the match, and his class told whenever he found himself under the cosh, which was not very often.
For Karatsev, who had to go through qualifying in Doha to even reach the main draw in Melbourne, this tournament has demonstrated the undoubted talents possessed by the 27-year-old from Moscow.
Djokovic gave credit to his beaten opponent: "We need to give him a hand. Huge congratulations to him on his debut, he reached the semi-finals and I don’t think it's ever happened in the history of tennis, so well done to him, he played a great tournament."
'Recovery the priority right now' - Djokovic ready for final
But this match was all about Djokovic, who will now look to win his ninth title on Rod Laver Arena and move to within two Grand Slam singles titles of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who each have 20.
This is the best I’ve felt the entire tournament. I felt great, I could swing through the ball. No pain. The best match so far, it came at the right time. I’m thrilled to feel this way.
"I have two days now. I don’t know, I’ll see, I’ll talk to the team. I’ll definitely train one of the days, more likely Saturday. Recovery is the priority right now, I’m feeling the ball well.
"I've had enough match play and practice. Right now it’s just gathering the necessary energy for the most important match of the Australian Open."
The Serb will now await the winner of Friday's second semi-final between Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who shocked Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
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