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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday January 25, 2024

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic continues his quest for a record 25th major title against surging Jannik Sinner in the Australian Open semifinals.

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And then there were four! It’s men’s semifinal time at the Australian Open and Day 13 will see four title-hungry men contest their semifinal matchups in Melbourne.

Let’s have a look at the matchups…


History for Nole, or Heartbreak?

Novak Djokovic vs Jannik Sinner
Head-to-Head: Djokovic leads 4-2

Hard Court Head-to-Head: Sinner leads 2-1
Last meeting: Sinner d. Djokovic 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, 2023 Davis Cup Finals

Novak Djokovic – he of the 24 Grand Slam and 10 Australian Open titles – has never lost a match at this stage of the Australian Open. The Grand Slam juggernaut is a spotless 20-0 in semifinals and finals at Melbourne Park, and though many suspected Father Time would introduce himself as Djokovic’s kryptonite at some point, that time clearly has not come yet.

At 36 Djokovic is going strong. Perhaps stronger than ever. Can it really be possible that he keeps up his torrid pace for several more years? Some say yes, because of the experience and tennis savoir faire he accumulated over the decades have made him virtually immune to stress and extremely knowledgeable about how to emerge from the final weekend of a major with the trophy in his arms.

His opponent on Friday, No.4-seeded Italian Jannik Sinner comes from the other side of the experience spectrum. He is into his second major semifinal, and at 22, all of Sinner’s Grand Slam know-how is dwarfed by what Djokovic has been through, experienced and overcome.

But don't sleep on the Italian.

Sinner is surging, and he’s remarkably talented. Furthermore, he took a couple of pieces out of Djokovic late last season, defeating him once at the ATP Finals and then again at Davis Cup in a critical match that helped propel Italy to its first Davis Cup title since 1976. Those victories are important, and they will give Sinner confidence, but how do they weigh on the scale against all the things that Djokovic gains confidence from?

Can Sinner overcome the experience deficit with youth and vigor and inspiration? He certainly has it in him, and if he catches Djokovic on a bad night, victory is possible. Should you bet on it? Probably not, unless you fancy a longshot.

If there is an advantage working in Sinner’s favor it’s the fact that Djokovic has spent 15 hours and nine minutes on court already in his five previous rounds, compared to 11 hours and 22 minutes for Sinner. The Italian has legs that are 14 years and 86 days younger than Djokovic’s, and the freshness factor could be exacerbated by the cumulative court time difference between the two. Typically that sort of thing isn’t a problem for Djokovic, but someday, he’ll be at an age where even he can’t slow down the effects of aging.

Sinner has won eight of his last nine matches against Top 5 players, but there’s a difference between beating a Top 5 player and beating Djokovic in his house, in the semifinals of the Australian Open, where he has never lost. It is a massive mountain to climb for Sinner, but he’s put himself in a good position to make a run at the impossible dream.

As for Djokovic, he’s riding a 17-match win streak against the Top-5 at the Australian Open and a 33-match win streak overall in Melbourne. Anything short of Grand Slam title No.25 would be a travesty for him.

Medvedev v Zverev, Episode 19

Head-to-Head: Medvedev leads 11-7
Hard Court Head-to-Head: Medvedev leads 9-7 (and has won nine of the last 12)
Last meeting: Medvedev d. Zverev 7-6(7), 6-4, 2023 ATP Finals

Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have met 18 times in total, and strangely none of those meetings have come at a Grand Slam. On Friday night in Melbourne we get No.19 - and our first at a major between these two rivals.

Truth be told: it’s a tough one to call.

Medvedev clearly feels comfortable facing Zverev, as he owns victories in 11 of 18 of the pair’s meetings, and he topped Zverev in five of their six shoutouts in 2023. But Zverev is resurgent, and one could easily say that the German, now a year removed from the start of his comeback from career-threatening ankle surgery, is truly coming into his own as an indefatigable, punishing baseliner.

The 26-year-old plowed past Carlos Alcaraz in quarterfinal action on Wednesday, so he’ll head into his showdown with Medvedev with confidence. Both Medvedev and Zverev have spent over 16 hours on court, so it could come down to which player wears those miles better and demonstrates the ability to produce a fresh, energetic brand of tennis despite inevitable fatigue.

Medvedev came through a lot of close battles with Zverev in 2023, and that should help him mentally, but Zverev was close to Medvedev – closer than the head-to-head indicates.

Medvedev bids for a sixth Grand Slam final appearance, while Zverev bids for a second, so the Russian gets the check mark in the big match experience category. Medvedev is 5-2 lifetime in major semifinals with wins in both of his Australian Open semifinals.

Zverev, bidding to become the third German man to reach multiple Slam finals, owns a career record of 1-5 in major semifinals.

There is the underlying feeling that Zverev, who entered the quarterfinals with an 0-10 record against the Top-5 at the majors, is playing his best tennis since 2020. But does he have what it takes to earn another Top-5 win in a pressure cooker environment against a high-pressure player like Medvedev?


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