MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Novak Djokovic is still in the running to bid for an 18th Slam title, and he plays Aslan Karatsev, who is aiming to be the first man in the Open Era to reach a slam final on his debut.
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Novak Djokovic  v Aslan Karatsev [Q] H2H & Match Fundamentals
Novak Djokovic  v Aslan Karatsev [Q]
H2H: First Meeting
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Preview: Novak Djokovic  v Aslan Karatsev [Q]
It has been very much a tale of two Slams for Novak Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev. The former injured himself in his third round match and has been battling that in a tough draw, and Karatsev… is playing with the house’s money and having a ball!
Djokovic’s best fight was against Alexander Zverev, who had a golden opportunity to get one over the defending champion, and Djokovic was let off lightly. But for Grigor Dimitrov’s back spasms he would have been up against one of the ‘Generation Lost Boys’ but instead he faces a qualifier on a great spin of form.
Even allowing for his injury, Djokovic’s serving has been of a high quality, and actually a little more solid than Karatsev, but the Russian has had to work harder to save and convert break points – by virtue of having had to battle out there for more time than Djokovic. You would still have Djokovic as that much more consistent when the chips are down.
Djokovic is one of the best if not THE best returner on the men’s tour, but Karatsev has made mince-meat of big servers on his journey, and his returning skills will be a match for the eight-time champion. Coupled with an uber-aggressive game-style, the scene is set for Djokovic to coax errors from the Russian, but it is a free hit for Karatsev, and so Djokovic will be the one feeling the pressure.
Karatsev, by his own admission, prefers to keep the points short, with a big serve, so Djokovic’s returning will need to be on point and much though he might like to keep the points short, he may get more joy dragging out the rallies.
In a new season after unprecedented times, Karatsev’s story has quickly caught light in one of the Slams that traditionally can be one of the most open anyway – even more so with the restrictions placed on players on their arrival.
This has hardly been the smoothest of starts for Djokovic as he bids to catch up with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. With Federer absent and Nadal knocked out of the tournament in the quarter-finals there will not be a better chance for him to add another Slam to the tally.
Djokovic can handle the pressure, and for Karatsev, he has absolutely nothing to lose other than to drag the match out for as long as he can. Djokovic will have to be quite ruthless in running him completely ragged – so the question is whether he is fit enough to do so.
Prediction: Djokovic in four sets.
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