Sinner books Medvedev final as Melbourne Park gears up for new king

football26 January 2024 14:25| Ā© Reuters

The Australian Open will crown a new men's champion after Jannik Sinner shock holder Novak Djokovic to reach the final, where the Italian faces twice runner-up Daniil Medvedev, who came from two sets down to outlast Alexander Zverev on a thrilling Friday.

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Sinner roared to a 6-1 6-2 6-7(6) 6-3 win that handed top seed Djokovic his first defeat at Melbourne Park in six years to move into his maiden Grand Slam title clash.

Later on Rod Laver Arena, Russian third seed Medvedev got past his German opponent 5-7 3-6 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 for a second comeback win from two sets down in the tournament after he had battled past Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round.

Fourth seed Sinner was far more efficient as he provided a masterclass in tennis in the opening two sets to put the wheels in motion for Djokovic's only defeat in the semifinals of his favourite major.

It also made the 22-year-old the only player from his nation to reach an Australian Open singles final.

In marking the arrival of a new generation of tennis stars, the Melbourne title clash on Sunday will also be the first since 2005 not to feature Djokovic or fellow "Big Three" members Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

"It was a very, very tough match," said Sinner, who did not face a single break point in his match.

"I started out very well, for two sets I felt that he was not feeling too good on court so I just tried to keep pushing and then in the third set I had match point and I missed the forehand, but you know, this is tennis.

"I just tried to be ready for the next set, which I started off really well, and of course the atmosphere was so great. It's so great to play here."

Sinner stunned Djokovic twice in three matches at the end of last season and he made a rollicking start on Rod Laver Arena by targeting his 36-year-old opponent's shaky serve and error-prone backhand to comfortably win the opening set.

Djokovic had not lost at his favourite stomping ground since the 2018 edition when he crashed to South Korean Chung Hyeon and there were worrying signs for the 10-times Melbourne champion as the 22-year-old Sinner eased through the next set.

"He outplayed me completely today," Djokovic said. "I was shocked with my level in a bad way. Not much that I was doing right... This is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I have played, that I can remember.

"At the same time, credit to him for doing everything better than me in every aspect of the game."

The Sinner tsunami showed no signs of subsiding in the third set but Djokovic raised his game to remain firm until 5-5 in the tiebreak, when a break in play after a fan fell ill threatened to upset the momentum of both players.

Djokovic won the game on a net cord to inch closer to taking the set but Sinner showed superb racket control with an overhead smash to force a tiebreak, only to squander a match point at 6-5 by hitting a forehand into the net.

Djokovic claimed the next three points to pull a set back, drawing loud cheers from spectators.

But Sinner broke for a 3-1 lead in the fourth set and pulled away to snap the Serb's 33-match winning run at Melbourne Park and end his quest for a record 25th major.

Victory meant Sinner has now defeated Djokovic at the ATP Finals, the Davis Cup and in a Grand Slam.

Medvedev said he was relishing Sunday's final where he can erase memories of defeats by Djokovic and Rafa Nadal in the 2021 and 2022 title clashes.

"We have a saying 'third time lucky'. Let's see, I can say from experience that it's not always like this but hopefully here it'll work. It would mean a lot," Medvedev said.

"This court is not my best court in terms of my performance and my self-esteem.

"That's why I often have to dig deep at this tournament. I would be the happiest man on the planet but for that I have to play pretty well and win three sets on Sunday."

Aryna Sabalenka will look to maintain status quo on the women's side when the defending champion takes on China's Zheng Qinwen in the final on Saturday.