By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Novak Djokovic [1] v Lucas Pouille [28]
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – While no-one is surprised to see six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-final, Lucas Pouille’s journey has been a little tougher.

 

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Novak Djokovic [1] v Lucas Pouille [28] | First Meeting

We could be in the verge of another period of dominance on the tour at the hands of Novak Djokovic. Since returning from elbow surgery, his route back to the top of the rankings has been little short of phenomenal. His first two rounds were straight sets wins, with a little bit of a test at the hands of the NextGen, Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev, including a little niggle in his back.

So, it was just what the doctor ordered when Kei Nishikori had to retire 6-1 4-1 down so give Djokovic a quick run-around in match conditions and a full day’s rest.

He explained, after his abbreviated match with Nishikori: “I’ve played a lot of long rallies with Medvedev. Of course, at the end it felt exhausting. But at the same time, I recovered well and I didn’t have doubt that I will be fit.”

On the other side of the bracket, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. After achieving quick success in 2016, reaching the quarter-finals of two slams, the pressure to defend those points too its toll. Even his start to this year was a struggle with no wins until he arrived in Melbourne.

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Pouille said: “There is a lot of first times this week. We had a plan. I really tried to make it today every single point, not trying to go away, try to stay focused on the plan we decided yesterday. Yeah, I don’t know, I’m not sure if I play against him again I will return like this. It was a great match.

“It came really fast when I did a quarterfinal in Wimbledon, US Open, then the year after I didn’t win a lot of matches, but I still finished 17 or 16 in the world. Last year I lost a bit of joy to be on the court, didn’t want to live in tournament, all this stuff.

“Started a new adventure with my team, with Amelie (Mauresmo), with Loïc (Courteau, co-coach). I think that was the great thing for me. I want to practice. I enjoy being on the court again. That’s the most important.

“(Mauresmo) is the right state of mind, she knows everything about tennis. It’s not about being a woman or a man. It doesn’t matter. You just have to know what you’re doing, and she does.”

 

Who will win the Men’s singles title at the Australian Open 2019

 

It is strange that Pouille and Djokovic have not met, and it presents a few challenges for the six-time champion to unpick his game with an eye on creating history with a record seventh title at the Australian Open.

Djokovic said: “I always thought he’s a great quality player. I mean, what he has done this tournament is fantastic. He has won against some top players. Of course, Milos (Raonic), (Borna) Coric in the last round. He struggled a little bit with consistency of his results in the last two years.

“But with the quality of the tennis that he possesses, he deserves to be definitely at the top 15, maybe top 10 of the world. He’s got that quality and potential, no question about it.

“It’s funny that we’re going to play first time against each other. We’ve practiced many times. We’ve known each other obviously for a long time. Here we go. We’ll see. It’s the semi-finals. We both, I’m sure, want to get to the finals. Hopefully we can both be fresh and fit and put on the great show.”

Djokovic could well face a test from a versatile player with flair and finally this year playing with confidence. He saw a tight plan worked against Raonic, who had impressed greatly this tournament.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.

 

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