Novak Djokovic moved a victory away from defending the Australian Open crown after beating a qualifier Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 52 minutes. The Russian became the first qualifier in a Major semi-final, hoping for another miracle but standing powerless against the world's leading player.
13 years after playing in the first final in Melbourne, Djokovic added the ninth title match to his tally, becoming the third player with that many finals at a single Major after Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Novak fired 17 aces and suffered two losses, delivering six breaks from seven chances to control the pace on the return and seal the deal in under two hours.
The Serb had 30 winners and 14 unforced errors, overpowering Karatsev in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to set the title clash against Daniil Medvedev. Novak made a perfect start, producing five commanding holds in the opening set and earning one break that sent him ahead.
The Serb fired nine winners and one unforced error, patiently waiting for a return chance and taking 12 of the last 13 points for 6-3. Novak held at love with an ace in the opening game before Aslan brought the second game home at 15 following Djokovic's forced error to get his name on the scoreboard.
The defending champion closed the third game when Karatsev netted a backhand, and the Russian matched that pace with a backhand down the line winner in game four for 2-2. From 30-0 down in the sixth game, Karatsev delivered impressive hitting and sealed the game with a backhand drive-volley winner to remain on the positive side.
Novak held at 15 in game seven and seized the first break a few minutes later when Aslan sprayed a backhand error. Serving for the set, Djokovic landed an ace down the T line for 6-3 after 35 minutes, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the clash.
Novak Djokovic advanced into his ninth Australian Open final.
Both players had more winners than unforced errors in set number two (14-7 ratio for Djokovic), and the Serb raced into a massive lead before the Russian bounced back to prolong the action.
Novak lost only three points in the opening three service games and stood strong on the return to clinch a couple of breaks and forge a 5-1 advantage. The first of those breaks came at love at 1-1 when Aslan hit a double fault and another at 3-1 following a lucky net cord winner.
From 5-1 down, a qualifier held at 15 to reduce the deficit and broke for the first time when Djokovic netted a backhand. The Russian held after deuce in game nine and created more break opportunities at 4-5 that could have turned the tables around.
Novak saved those with powerful serves and held for a massive roar and two sets to love advantage after 80 minutes. Karatsev sprayed a huge forehand error in the third set's first game before Djokovic held at 15 for 2-0 lead.
The Russian pulled the break back at 1-2 with a brave forehand winner before Novak grabbed another at 15 a few minutes later for 3-2. Djokovic earned a return game at 4-2 and moved over the top with an ace in game eight for his ninth Australian Open final.