Australian Open: Djokovic hitting peak form at the right time again

By Sports Desk February 18, 2021

Novak Djokovic believes he is peaking at the perfect time at the Australian Open after feeling the best he has all tournament in the semi-finals.

Djokovic brushed past Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev 6-3 6-4 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday, reaching his ninth decider in Melbourne.

The Serbian has won the tournament every time he has been to the semi-finals, although worries over a suspected abdominal injury had cast doubt over his ability to win an 18th major title on Sunday.

But Djokovic, who has refused to detail the extent of his injury, said he was hitting top form at the right time ahead of facing either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.

"Well, first I want to give credit to Karatsev for a great tournament.  Maybe it wasn't his day today but he had big wins and debut, first grand slam semi-finals. Kudos for a great result," he told a news conference.

"I felt the best I felt so far in the tournament tonight. Physically, mentally, as well. I was hitting the ball very well, mixing the pace. Didn't give him the same looks at all. Always kind of kept him guessing and served well when I needed to get out of the trouble, you know, late in the second set. I'm just very pleased with the performance.

"It came at the right time. Before the last match in a grand slam, couldn't be a better timing for me to play my best tennis. But being in this situation before many times I think helps kind of gather all the necessary elements for me to peak at the right time, which is happening again, which I'm obviously very happy about.

"I'm also happy that I have two days off now. Still recovery is the priority.  I've played enough tennis. I'm feeling great on the court. Regardless of who I face on Sunday, I'm ready for the battle for the toughest match of the tournament, without a doubt."

As Djokovic prepares for his 28th grand slam final, he will face either Medvedev in his second or Tsitsipas in his first.

Djokovic said his incredible record at the Australian Open lifted his confidence, and potentially played on the minds of his opponents.

"Well, of course it contributes to more confidence, prior to coming into the finals knowing that I never lost in the finals or semi-finals just makes me feel more comfortable being on the court," he said.

"But each year is different, although it does have a mental effect on me, maybe on my opponents, I don't know, but on me it does definitely have a positive effect. It's not a decisive factor in the way the match is going to go forward, because as I said, each year is different. Surface is also different. You know, you play against also different opponents. So that's not gonna be decisive factor I think on Sunday.

"Regardless of my great record I think both Tsitsipas and Medvedev will want to get their first grand slam title. I'm sure that they are going to do their best, so I'll be ready for that."

Related items

  • Barcelona president Laporta warns Koeman: If decisions have to be taken, we'll take them Barcelona president Laporta warns Koeman: If decisions have to be taken, we'll take them

    Ronald Koeman's job as Barcelona head coach does not depend on the outcome of Thursday's meeting with Cadiz, but president Joan Laporta has warned that "if decisions have to be taken, we will take them".

    The Dutchman is under growing pressure following a slow start to the campaign that has seen Barca drop points to Athletic Bilbao and Granada in their opening four LaLiga games, while also losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

    Amid reports Barca are lining up replacements for Koeman, with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez supposedly among the candidates, Koeman refused to answer any questions from reporters at Wednesday's news conference previewing the trip to Cadiz.

    Koeman instead chose to read a prepared statement in which he urged Barca fans to have patience with the process while claiming the club's hierarchy – including Laporta – was fully behind him.

    There have even been suggestions in the Spanish press that Thursday's clash at Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla could be the 58-year-old's last in charge should Barca fail to pick up all three points.

    While Laporta insisted that is not the case, the Barca chief fell short of guaranteeing that the former Netherlands boss will remain in charge further down the line if results do not pick up.

    "Koeman's future doesn't depend on the result tonight," he told El Chiringuito outside the Barcelona team hotel on Thursday. "We are with the coach. He's Barca's first team coach and what we want is for things to go well.

    "All coaches, not just Koeman, depend on results, and in Barca's case on their style of play. Koeman is our coach and we're with him today."

    Barcelona have failed to win five of their last eight LaLiga games stretching back into last season, as many as in their previous 24 matches in the competition, and are eighth in the table ahead of their game in hand.

    Koeman this week spoke out in the Dutch media about the wider issues at Camp Nou and how Lionel Messi, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer last month, papered over the cracks with his individual brilliance.

    But Laporta does not want to use Messi's shock departure, plus the subsequent exit of Antoine Griezmann, as an excuse for Barca's disappointing run of results.

    "We see that the team isn't working as we all were hoping," Laporta said. "In that sense, we'll act thinking always of Barcelona... If decisions have to be taken, we'll take them.

    "What I don't like is a conformist attitude, a certain defeatism, that can't be allowed at Barcelona. We have the team we have, but we can aspire to win LaLiga and the players say to me that we have to be optimistic.

    "We have to work, we have to fight every day, because I believe you achieve success with daily work. Less talking and more doing, more working."

    Barcelona have failed to win their last two LaLiga games against Cadiz (D1 L1). If they fail to win Thursday's match, it will be their longest winless run against the Andalusian side in the competition.

  • Nagelsmann on Rudiger to Bayern rumours: I'll have to see if I have any money in my wallet! Nagelsmann on Rudiger to Bayern rumours: I'll have to see if I have any money in my wallet!

    Julian Nagelsmann has been impressed by Antonio Rudiger's development under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea but insists he has not yet discussed a move for the centre-back.

    The Bundesliga champions are rumoured to be among a number of clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, keeping a close eye on the Germany international.

    Rudiger is into the final year of his Chelsea contract and will therefore be able to sign a pre-contract agreement with foreign clubs from January unless fresh terms are agreed.

    According to reports that emerged on Thursday, Bayern have already been in contact with Rudiger's agent about an end-of-season switch to the Allianz Arena.

    But Nagelsmann was unwilling to discuss his side's supposed interest in Rudiger any further during Thursday's news conference previewing the trip to Greuther Furth.

    "I'm not talking about players from other clubs, particularly outside of the transfer window," he said. "But I will speak of him as a football fan: He has developed very well.

    "Thomas Tuchel has coached him well. Before he was sidelined at Chelsea but now he is a crucial player. I can't saying anything else.

    "Believe it or not, I haven't spoken to Brazzo [sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic] about it yet. Even if I had, I wouldn't give that away. 

    "I have to see how long he still has to go on his contract. Then I will see if I have any money in my wallet."

    Rudiger's importance to Chelsea since Tuchel took charge on January 26 is reflected in the statistics.

    The 28-year-old has helped the Blues to 20 clean sheets in 32 matches in all competitions across that period – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues.

    Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are next on the list with 15 each, highlighting Chelsea's defensive solidity under Tuchel.

    Rudiger has played seven times this season and has won 0.55 tackles per 90 minutes, compared to 0.76 for Niklas Sule, 0.88 for Lucas Hernandez and 1.64 for Dayot Upamecano among Bayern's regular centre-backs.

    The German's 73.77 touches per 90 minutes and 56.86 successful passes is also fewer than each of Sule, Hernandez and Upamecano have managed, albeit in different competitions.

    Sule and recent acquisition Upamecano have been Bayern's most regular pairing at centre-back this term and may get the nod for Friday's trip to Trolli-Arena. 

    Bayern enter the game on a seven-match winning run in all competitions, scoring 37 goals across that spell, and have lost only one of their last 48 league games against promoted opposition.

    Nagelsmann has Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala back in contention following recent lay-offs, but he will not take any risks over the fitness of the attacking pair.

    "The good news is that Gnabry and Musiala have both been able to return to training, with Hernandez also taking part today," Nagelsmann said.

    "Serge and Jamal are both looking good and ready to play. But we have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.

    "Both of their conditions could cause a reaction after training, so we have to wait and see how sensible it is to field them from the start. We also have a Champions League game coming up next week.

    "Looking at today's training session alone, I'd say that both players can start tomorrow. But the probability they will both start is very low."

  • Tottenham move collapsed because Paratici wanted defensive football, claims Fonseca Tottenham move collapsed because Paratici wanted defensive football, claims Fonseca

    Paulo Fonseca claims his move to Tottenham collapsed because incoming director Fabio Paratici preferred a coach with a more defensive style.

    The 48-year-old former Roma boss had looked primed to take over from Jose Mourinho until the deal fell through, with some reports initially blaming problems with Italian and United Kingdom tax laws.

    Spurs went through a host of prospective candidates, including Gennaro Gattuso and Antonio Conte, before Nuno Espirito Santo was appointed in June.

    Nuno has endured a mixed start to life in north London, winning his first three Premier League games before suffering comprehensive defeats to Crystal Palace and Chelsea.

    Spurs have only scored once from open play in their five league games in 2021-22 from 2.5 expected goals, the lowest such figure aside from Burnley, Norwich City and Aston Villa. Ignoring set-pieces, they have created 27 chances in those five matches, the worst return in the league.

    They have averaged only 44 per cent of the possession, the sixth-lowest in the division, while they have registered just eight build-up attacks – open-play sequences of 10 or more passes that end with a shot or a touch in the box – which is a figure less than half that posted by Nuno's former side Wolves (18).

    Still, Fonseca claims this more safety-first approach was favoured by Paratici when he arrived at the club as managing director of football in July.

    "The agreement was done," he told the Telegraph when asked about his own talks with Spurs.

    "We were planning the pre-season and Tottenham wanted an offensive coach. It wasn't announced but we planned pre-season players. But things changed when the new managing director arrived, and we didn't agree with some ideas, and he preferred another coach.

    "I have some principles. I wanted to be coach of the great teams, but I want the right project and a club where the people believe in my ideas, my way to play, and this didn't happen with the managing director.

    "I cannot be a different way. All my teams will have these intentions. In Rome or Shakhtar [Donetsk] in the Champions League against the biggest teams, I'm not sending out my teams to defend near their own box.

    "We have an obligation with supporters to create a spectacle, a good show. That is the obligation of the coach. I want to win every game but just winning is not enough for me. I have to be offensive and dominate the games and have an offensive midfield and show courage in the game. These are things which will die with me.

    "It happened so many times when I got home after winning a game and my wife asked 'why are you unhappy?' And it is because I didn't win the way I wanted to. It is not enough. I have to create a good show for the people who pay the tickets and love football. At least I try. I cannot be a coach in another way."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.