Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic closed in on a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title, while third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is eying a maiden triumph after they won their respective semifinals at the Australian Open on Friday.

Djokovic, who continued his remarkable unbeaten semifinal record at his favored Rod Laver Arena, ended the spectacular run of unseeded American Tommy Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2.

A first-time semi-finalist at a Grand Slam, 25-year-old Paul hoped to defy expectations and pull off a major upset in a bid to move a step closer to ending a two-decade title drought for American men’s players at majors.

But he was the latest victim in Djokovic’s path towards a record-extending 10th Australian Open trophy.

The 35-year-old Serb aimed to put Paul under pressure immediately and he did exactly that by breaking in the second game.

Djokovic appeared to be breezing through the first set with a 5-1 advantage but underdog Paul, buoyed by strong crowd support, hit back to surprisingly win four games in a row before Djokovic steadied and claimed the first set.

A refocused Djokovic rediscovered his irrepressible form to motor through a one-sided second set and he was unstoppable from there to book a spot in his record-extending 33rd Grand Slam final.

“I was fortunate to hold my nerve towards the end of the first set, which was a key. I’m just happy to make another final,” Djokovic said.

He will start a firm favorite in Sunday’s final fuelled by a 10-2 winning record over Tsitsipas, including claiming the last nine matches in a row.

But Tsitsipas, a mainstay high in the rankings in recent years, is knocking on the door for an elusive Grand Slam breakthrough and his current 10-match win streak has strengthened his confidence.

Tsitsipas’ only other Grand Slam final was at the French Open in 2021 when he let slip a two sets advantage to fall to Djokovic.

“It was a really physical, emotional and mental battle,” Djokovic recalled from that epic final at Roland Garros.

“I respect him a lot and he’s one of the most interesting guys on the tour. Let the better player win.”

Whoever wins the final will ascend to the world number one ranking, which would be a career first for Tsitsipas of Greece.

But he is getting closer after Tsitsipas in the earlier semifinal overcame a nervous wobble in the third set to prevail over Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3.

The 24-year-old Tsitsipas appeared headed for a comfortable victory when serving for the match in the 10th game of the third set before losing his nerve.

He then wasted two match points in a see-saw of a tiebreak as the revitalised Russian hit back to push the match into a fourth set.

But Tsitsipas regained his composure to thwart Khachanov’s fightback and end his semifinal jinx at the Australian Open after three failed attempts previously.

“I dreamed as a kid to maybe one day get to play in this court against the best players in the world,” said Tsitsipas, whose career breakout was when he stunned the legendary Roger Federer in the fourth round at the 2019 Australian Open.

“I’m happy with the fight I put out there today. I feel blessed that I’m able to play tennis at this level,” Tsitsipas said.

“I’m extremely happy that I’m in the final now and let’s see what happens.”

Brazilian pair Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos claimed the mixed doubles title after beating India’s Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna 7-6 (2), 6-2.

It was the first grand slam title for the Brazilians, who denied the retiring Mirza a fairytale finish to her career which netted six Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.

The women’s final between Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka will highlight action on Saturday.

The men’s doubles final will be contested between Australian pair Rinky Hijikata-Jason Kubler and Jan Zielinski of Poland and Monaco’s Hugo Nys.

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