Novak Djokovic puts his 33-match unbeaten Australian Open run to the test against Jannik Sinner on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.
The world number one has not been beaten at Melbourne Park since a fourth-round loss to Chung Hyeon back in 2018, with only two opponents in the intervening six years managing to push him to five sets.
Djokovic appears to have recovered from the illness that was troubling him at the start of the fortnight, but was tested in a four-set quarter-final win over Taylor Fritz and, if anyone is going to end his streak, Sinner appears a prime candidate.
The 22-year-old beat Djokovic twice in successive weeks at the end of last season at the ATP Finals and Davis Cup, where he led Italy to the title, and is the only player in the men’s draw yet to drop a set.
“This is what I practise for, to play against the best players in the world,” said Sinner. “Obviously he has an incredible record here, so for me it’s a pleasure to play against him, especially in the final stages of the tournament where things are a little bit more interesting.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be tough. This, I know. I will control the controllable, which is giving 100 per cent, having the right attitude, fighting for every ball. And then we see the outcome. More than this, I cannot do. It doesn’t really matter who my opponent is.”
Sinner reached his first slam semi-final at Wimbledon last summer but lost in straight sets to Djokovic, who is tantalisingly close to a record-breaking 25th major title.
This has not been one of his more straightforward paths through the draw in Melbourne, but his desire to continue racking up the biggest titles remains unquestionable.
“I’m aware of the streak that I’m on and the amount of matches that I have won in my career on the Rod Laver Arena,” said Djokovic.
“I don’t want to let that go. The longer the streak goes, the more that kind of confidence, also expectations, build, but also the willingness to really walk the extra mile.”
The second semi-final pits two very familiar opponents against each other in the shape of third seed Daniil Medvedev and sixth seed Alexander Zverev.
Medvedev is bidding to reach his third final at Melbourne Park in the last four years while Zverev crashed the top-four party by defeating Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday for his best victory at a slam.
Medvedev and Zverev, who are certainly not the best of friends, have played each other 18 times previously but strangely never at a slam.
Russian Medvedev leads the head-to-head 11-7 having won five of the six matches they played last season, but Zverev took time to get back to his best after a serious ankle injury.
“A lot of matches were extremely close,” said the German, who lost his only grand slam final at the US Open in 2020.
“A lot of the times it came down to him being extremely confident last year, him playing some of the best tennis of his life, and me coming back from injury and not having the confidence in deciding moments and not being able to finish matches.
“He’s obviously extremely difficult to play. No question about it. He’s one of the best players in the world right now. But I’m happy in the position I am, and I’m going to do everything I can to win that match on Friday.”