Djokovic says he 'sent message' with Australian Open mauling

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Novak Djokovic (Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic (Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic said he "sent a message" at the Australian Open by thrashing Andrey Rublev on Wednesday to make the semi-finals and edge closer to a 22nd Grand Slam title. 

The Serb was in the zone to blitz past the Russian fifth seed 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena and set up a meeting with Tommy Paul for a place in Sunday's final. 

The unseeded American defeated countryman Ben Shelton 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in his quarter-final. 

Djokovic's quest for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title was far from smooth at the start, plagued by a hamstring strain suffered en route to the title at Adelaide this month. 

The 35-year-old struggled physically in the early rounds but was dominant during his fourth-round demolition of Alex de Minaur and was ruthless once more against Rublev. 

"Last two matches, playing against two guys who were in form and to beat them dominantly in three sets is something that I definitely want in this moment, something that sends a message to all my opponents," he said. 

"With this kind of game, the confidence level rises, so I feel better on the court as the tournament progresses. 

"I've been in this situation so many times in my life and career," he added after reaching a 10th semi-final at Melbourne Park. Only Roger Federer (15) and Jack Crawford (11) have been there more often. 

"I've never lost a semi-final in the Australian Open. Hopefully, that will stay the same." 

Victory for the red-hot favourite propelled him into a 44th Grand Slam semi-final to close the gap on Federer's all-time record 46. 

In another astonishing record, he clocked a 26th consecutive match-win at the Australian Open to equal Andre Agassi's Open-era record for the longest streak at the first Grand Slam of the year. 

Djokovic will meet Paul next for the first time, and the American is excited at the prospect of facing the Serbian great in his maiden Grand Slam semi-final. 

The 35th-ranked Paul will be a heavy underdog, but he struck a positive tone. 

"I'm really excited, man. I probably have a better chance of winning if it's Rublev, but to play Novak here in Australia would be awesome," the 25-year-old American said. 

"Obviously, he's pretty comfortable here in Australia. It's going to be a challenging match. 

"But I'm playing some of my best tennis." 


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