Djokovic feeling no pain, inflicting plenty of it


Night for it: A packed Rod Laver Arena watches the match.Credit:Eddie Jim

He’d rub his temples as if it was all too hard, then make up what looked like kilometres across the court to reach a ball, control it and rifle back a winner. If his hamstring was the problem then, he should look to arrange to tweak it before every match.

He’d howl at the wind – there was a bit of it around – at the sky, then hit another screamer. He’d half stumble in his service action, then seconds later fire down another ace.

He’d glare and yell at his box, as if he was Nick Kyrgios or something (he’s not). He’d reproach himself, as the only one who would understand, then play a lob so delicate it might have been a butterfly.

Momentarily, deep into the third set, he looked to be in serious trouble after a run and reach across the baseline. As he made his way to the change of ends, he was proppy. But when play resumed, so did normal service.

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Poor Rublev. You could say that the Russian was caught between the devil and the deep blue court.

That’s not to suggest that Rublev was meek in defeat. He’s a boxing fan, who spars a bit himself. He is just about the hardest hitter on tour and he threw the kitchen sink at Djokovic, who turned off the tap, pulled out the plug and gave it back. Rublev hit some astonishing shots. It’s just that Djokovic got most of them back.

He’d turn himself inside-out to stay with Djokovic. Fortunately, he didn’t need a physio. For all his fierceness, all his fight, he got no further than a couple of break points, which he lost.

Rublev had been to and lost six quarter-finals previously. He might have thought himself unlucky to get to another and find Djokovic at the other end of the court. Or not. It’s not how pros think.

Still, you could not blame him if he asked why could he not get a Karen Khachanov or a nice little Tommy Paul, just once?

Paul’s next for Djokovic. While Djokovic was putting on his show on Rod Laver Arena, the American was doing media to elaborate on his own quarter-final win earlier in the day.

It might have been just as well that he wasn’t watching. The very thought of playing Djokovic in this form might have caused him a twinge in anticipation.

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