Another semi-final. Another blowout.
Novak Djokovic strolled into his seventh Australian Open final with a 6-0 6-2 6-2 trouncing of Lucas Pouille on Rod Laver Arena on Friday evening.
To call this a contest would be unfair on Djokovic, who hit 24 winners and made just five unforced errors in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it match that lasted only 83 minutes.
One of the biggest cheers for the evening came after the match when Jim Courier announced Djokovic would play Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s men’s singles decider.
If that did not say it all, the crowd’s other noisy moments – sympathy cheers when Pouille finally won his first, and then his second game – did.
Tennis fans should be excited about a grand slam final between Nadal and Djokovic, two champions in stellar form.
Both players are on the wrong side of 30, too, meaning their quick semi-finals will delight them. But it was hard not to feel for the paying fans, with some tickets on Friday going for more than $600 a pop.
Djokovic is gunning for a record seventh Australian Open title and said afterwards he played “one of the best matches I ever had on this court”.
Expanding on that in his post-match press conference, the Serbian said: “[I] just happened to be in that zone that we all strive for.
“Every professional athlete wants to be in the zone where everything flows so effortlessly and you are executing automatically.
“It’s quite an awesome feeling that we all try and reach and stay in.”
— Cal Washington (@cal_washington) January 25, 2019
Pouille said he had no answers for Djokovic, who “just played amazing”.
“He was too good today … I think the first mistake [from Novak] came after maybe one set,” he said.
“When he’s playing like this, yeah, he’s the best in the world for sure.”
Djokovic started with an ace and never looked back, racing through the opener in just 23 minutes as Pouille wilted under pressure.
If Nadal made a statement by winning the last set of his semi-final 6-0, this was the Serbian making his own.
A pair of excellent passing shots when Djokovic came to the net finally saw Pouille break through and win a game at the 32-minute mark of the match.
But Pouille’s plight was summed up when, serving at 1-2, he double-faulted to give Djokovic the all-important first break of the second set.
While the Frenchman was clearly battling, Djokovic was imperious, finding the lines with incredible regularity as he needed just 33 minutes to win the second set.
And it was more of the same in the third: Djokovic outstanding, Pouille with no answer.
A tame backhand into the net put Pouille out of his misery, setting up a final that will delight tournament organisers and television executives.
Djokovic v Nadal: The history
The pair have met 52 times, Djokovic just shading proceedings with 27 wins, compared to Nadal’s 25.
The last time they met was in the semi-final at Wimbledon last year, Djokovic winning a thrilling clash 10-8 in the fifth set.
Nadal had won the two meetings before that, both on clay, with the duo having played each other just three times since 2016.
Nadal leads the grand slam head-to-head, winning nine of 14 battles with Djokovic at tennis’ top-tier tournaments.
“Nadal has historically throughout my life and career been the greatest rival that I ever played against on all the surfaces,” Djokovic said on Friday.
“Some matches that we had against each other were a great turning point in my career. I feel they have made me rethink my game.
“I had some disappointing moments where I lost to him. I think I lost to him nine times so far in the grand slams, and I lost some tough matches in finals and semis in French Open and US Open.
“I won also some great matches. Those kind of encounters have also made me the player I am today, without a doubt.”
The pair have met just once at the Australian Open, Djokovic winning the 2012 final that lasted five hours and 53 minutes by a 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 scoreline.
Speaking to Djokovic after his latest win, Courier said that 2012 decider was “the best match I’ve ever personally witnessed”.
“I would definitely want to buy the ticket for that [Sunday’s] match,” Djokovic responded.
The countdown is on.