Djokovic keeps perfect record in Australian Open semifinals

Full Screen
1 / 12

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating Russia's Aslan Karatsev in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021..(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE – Novak Djokovic had a perfect record in Australian Open semifinals, and he was playing almost flawless tennis to protect it.

It didn't matter that across the net was Aslan Karatsev, a 114th-ranked, 27-year-old Russian who had come through qualifying to make his debut in a Grand Slam tournament after nine failed attempts.

Djokovic made only one unforced error in more than 50 minutes.

It was tight for the first seven games — before Djokovic reeled off eight straight points to win the first set — and again when Karatsev went on an all-or-nothing roll late in the second set.

Sensing a shift in support for the underdog — there was a loud, vocal crowd at Rod Laver Arena after a five-day span when fans were barred during a local COVID-19 outbreak — Djokovic moved up a gear and finished off his opponent 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

He's now 9-0 in semifinals at the season-opening major, and one win from a ninth Australian title.

“The more I win, the better I feel coming back," the top-ranked Djokovic said. “The love affair continues.”

Djokovic will have a day off Friday when No. 4 Daniil Medvedev and No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is coming off a five-set win over Rafael Nadal, meet in the other semifinal. He said he'd have a rest and get the popcorn ready to watch and see who he gets to face in Sunday's final.