Defending champion Novak Djokovic showed yet more mental and physical resilience to beat German sixth seed Alexander Zverev and reach the Australian Open semi-finals. The top seed fought back to win 6-7 (6-8) 6-2 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in Melbourne.
The Serb will face Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev, who beat an injured Grigor Dimitrov, on Thursday. Karatsev, ranked 114th in the world, is the first man in the Open era to reach the last four on his Grand Slam debut. Few will fancy Karatsev – who has largely plied his trade on the second-tier ATP Challenger Tour – to continue his dream run by beating eight-time champion Djokovic.
The 33-year-old world number one looked far from comfortable against Zverev, a result of the German’s big serving and probing groundstrokes as much as the abdominal injury which has bothered him throughout the tournament. “Down to the very last shot, it was anybody’s match,” said Djokovic, who could only manage a wry smile after taking his second match point with an ace.
“Emotionally I feel a little bit drained, it was a real battle. We pushed each other to the limit.”