ATP Australian Open: Novak Djokovic powers past Aslan Karatsev

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ATP Australian Open: Novak Djokovic powers past Aslan Karatsev

The defending champion Novak Djokovic will compete in the ninth Australian Open final following a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over a qualifier Aslan Karatsev. Djokovic hit 17 aces and lost serve twice, controlling the return games and securing six breaks from seven opportunities to seal the deal in an hour and 53 minutes.

The Serb had 30 winners and 14 unforced errors, overpowering Karatsev in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to set the title clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev. Novak made a perfect start, delivering five commanding holds in the opening set and earning one break that carried him through.

The Serb fired nine winners and one unforced error, waiting for a return chance patiently 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 closed 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 is through to 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 at least prolong the action.

Novak lost only three points in the opening three service games and stood strong on the return to secure two breaks and move 5-1 up. The first of those breaks came at 1-1 when Aslan hit a double fault to lose serve at love, and another at 3-1 for Novak following a lucky net cord winner that secured another perfect return game for the defending champion.

From 5-1 down, Aslan held at 15 to reduce the deficit and broke for the first time when Djokovic netted a backhand to prolong the set. The Russian held after deuce 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 massive forehand error in the third set's first game, with Djokovic holding 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.