Djokovic holds a 27-25 lead in the head-to-head series with Nadal. But Nadal leads 4-3 in major finals. The only other time they met with the Australian Open trophy on the line, in 2012, Djokovic won 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 5 hours, 53 minutes, making it the lengthiest Grand Slam title match in history. “Once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Djokovic called that one, “and hopefully the outcome can be the same for me.” Given how well both men are playing at the moment, this showdown shapes up as another potential classic, unlike the two semifinals that preceded it. Nadal was superb while beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 on Thursday night and has yet to drop a set in the tournament. A day later, Djokovic played as if setting out to say, “Anything you can do, I can do better.” This was Djokovic’s 34th Grand Slam semifinal and he’s now won his last 10. Pouille, a 24-year-old Frenchman coached by former women’s No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, was making his debut at this stage.
Most Slams all-time among men:Federer -20 Nadal – 17 Djokovic – 14 Sampras – 14 pic.twitter.com/Bloo1byola — Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) January 25, 2019
#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/EUQ0HvSmtA — #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2019What didn’t go according to plan for Djokovic on Friday, other than the one face-down pratfall he took when he slipped on a point? He won 25 of 34 points on Pouille’s second serve and broke the guy seven times. He won 45 of 53 points he served, never facing a single break chance. Even managed to deliver a second-serve ace. It took Pouille more than a half-hour to merely grab one game, and spectators roared, likely relieved at the prospect of a more competitive, not to mention longer, match. Never materialized. “Definitely one of the best matches I ever had,” Djokovic said, then paused before adding the unnecessary qualifier “on this court.” This is as good as he gets, as good as it gets, and a far cry from the 2018 Australian Open, when he was dealing with a painful right elbow and lost in the fourth round in Melbourne. Soon, he would have elbow surgery, and begin the climb back to the top. “It was highly unlikely 12 months ago that I would be where I am today, a year later,” Djokovic said. “I’ve said it before, but I always have plenty of belief in myself, and the self-belief always prevails.”