Novak Djokovic picked up where he left off against Alex de Minaur on Monday night to crush Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 and seal his place in his 44th grand slam semi-final on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night.
It was another merciless and peerless performance by the Serbian who is flexing his muscle against his hapless opponents and ensuring there is no doubt whatsoever; rankings be damned, he is the best player in the world.
Showing no signs of the hamstring injury that had lingered from his title in Adelaide, Djokovic came out firing against Rublev breaking the Russian’s serve twice in the first set and never slowed down.
You’d be forgiven to think that Novak was here to send a message. And you’d be right.
“I always try to give my best, particularly in Grand Slams, because at this stage of my career those are the tournaments that count the most,” said Djokovic when prompted about whether there was an extra layer of determination this year.
“But you could say that there is something extra this year, yeah. You could say because, yeah, as you mentioned, the injury, what happened last year. I just wanted to really do well.
“So far I have a perfect score in Australian hard courts, in Adelaide and here. I've been playing better and better. I couldn't ask for a better situation to be in at the moment.”
Too old, too sore, too good.
While the frustration was evident from Rublev’s side of the net, Djokovic too was emotive and vocal often bemoaning himself and his players box. Perhaps mimicking a Michael Jordan style internal search for motivation.
Djokovic was ruthless on serve and similarly savage when returning.
Although the score would suggest otherwise, Rublev didn’t play terribly. In fact, for the most part, he played well. He created 5 break points opportunities and hit only eight more unforced errors than the Serbian. The problem was that he was facing Djokovic; a man ranked only one spot above Rublev but in reality, one that operates in an entirely different stratosphere.
In ominous signs for upcoming opponent Tommy Paul and opposing semi-finalists Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov, Djokovic holds an 18-0 record in Australian Open semi-finals and finals.
If you don’t knock him out early, you don’t knock him out at all.
Next up is American Tommy Paul in what will be Paul’s first-ever grand slam semi-final. The good news for Paul is that surely Djokovic can’t play any better than he has in his last two outings.
The bad news would be that in the last five years, no one else has figured out how to defeat Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park as he rides a 26-match win streak dating back to 2018 into Friday’s encounter.
Looking ahead to the Paul match-up, Djokovic acknowledged the American would have nothing to lose.
“I never faced him on the court. He's been around for a few years. I watched him play quite a bit, especially during this tournament” said Djokovic.
“He's been playing probably tennis of his life.
“Very explosive, very dynamic player. Quick, very solid backhand. Likes to step in, dictate the point with the forehand. Great, great service motion. I think he can hit all the spots with the serve. Very complete player.”
“Of course he doesn't have much to lose. I'm sure he's going to go out trying to play his best tennis.”
That said, it’s hard to imagine we’ll have a final on Sunday without Novak Djokovic.