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Sinner ends 10-time champion Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open streak, faces Medvedev for the title

Djokovic had won 33 consecutive matches at Melbourne Park since 2018, and never lost here after reaching the final four

Italy's Jannik Sinner with Serbia's Novak Djokovic after winning his semi final match at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia. January 26, 2024.
Italy's Jannik Sinner with Serbia's Novak Djokovic after winning his semi final match at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia. January 26, 2024.EDGAR SU (REUTERS)

Jannik Sinner ended one of Novak Djokovic’s perfect streaks in an Australian Open upset and then got to relax while Daniil Medvedev rallied from two sets down to beat Alexander Zverev after midnight to secure the other place in the final.

Just about everything went the self-described tennis fan’s way in the semifinals Friday.

The 22-year-old Italian broke Djokovic’s serve twice in each of the first two sets in a surprisingly lopsided 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory that ended the 10-time champion’s unbeaten streak in Australian Open semifinals.

Djokovic had won 33 consecutive matches at Melbourne Park since 2018, and never lost here after reaching the final four.

Almost an hour after saving a match point, that phenomenal sequence was over. Sinner converted his second match point to complete a third win in four head-to-heads since losing to Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon semifinals.

“I learned a lot from that,” he said, noting the turning point in their rivalry. Sinner won two of the next three — all in November — at the ATP Finals in Turin and in the Davis Cup semifinals.

“It gives you a better feeling when you know that you can beat one player,” he said. “The confidence from the end of last year has for sure kept the belief.”

Third-seeded Medvedev appeared down and out after two sets, and was two points from losing in the fourth, but he rallied to beat Zverev 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3 after 4 hours, 18 minutes.

“I was a little bit lost, but during the third set I started saying ‘If I lose this match, I just want to be proud of myself,’” said Medvedev, who has lost two finals in Australia, including the 2022 decider from two sets up against Rafael Nadal. “I’m proud of myself.”

Medvedev’s shanked chip forehand service return that just dropped over the net to earn a set point in the fourth-set tiebreaker clearly frustrated Zverev.

“Tough luck for him, for sure, in this point,” Medvedev said. “Managed to make an ace after, but that’s what tennis is about.”

Five games later, Zverev got a warning for a code violation for smacking the net just before another service break.

“It’s more disappointing that at 5-4 in the tiebreak I didn’t serve it out,” he said. “The 5-all point was just purely unlucky.” Zverev’s run drew attention on and off the court after it emerged as the tournament started that a German court set a trial date in May over an assault allegation dating to 2020. The Olympic gold medalist has denied the accusations since last July when details of the case became public.

He said it wasn’t a distraction. Zverev got within a couple of swings of the racket of making a second Grand Slam final, extra disappointing after he blew a two-set lead to lose the 2020 U.S. Open final to Dominic Thiem.

Instead it will be 2021 U.S. Open winner Medvedev contending for a second major title in his sixth final. His run here included a grueling second-round win that finished at almost 4 in the morning. It makes Medvedev the first player since Pete Sampras in 1995 to register two comebacks from 2-0 down on the way to an Australian Open final.

Sinner will be the youngest player to contest the men’s final in Australia since 24-time major winner Djokovic took his first here in 2008.

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

“This is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played — at least that I remember.”

Djokovic didn’t get a look at a break point at all — the first time he’s experienced that in a completed Grand Slam match.

“That stat says a lot,” Djokovic said. “There’s a lot of negative things that I’ve done on the court today in terms of my game. Everything ... was just subpar.”

Sinner took the first two sets in under 1 1/4 hours, an astonishing start against a player who lost only one Grand Slam match last year — the Wimbledon final against Alcaraz.

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

He was serving at 5-5 when play was interrupted briefly while a spectator received medical help in the stands. Djokovic then held serve and saved a match point before taking the set in a tiebreaker. But he was immediately in trouble again in the fourth.

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

Continuous chants of “Nole, Nole, Nole, Nole” echoed around Rod Laver Arena between big points but didn’t get him across the line this time.

“I think you win the matches not only on that day, you win it because you feel prepared for a good fight,” Sinner said. “After last year, especially end of the year, gave me confidence that I could potentially do some good results in Grand Slams.”

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