First set: Novak Djokovic* 2-1 Aslan Karatsev There is a little bit more pressure on Djokovic now the crowd is showing its preference. He smashes a backhand very wide and very long to lose the first point of his serve. This is followed by a light-hearted moment of a butterfly trying to land on the Serb. Inspired by his winged friend, Djokovic bounces back to win the next two points, only to see Karatsev smash a cross-court win on the stretch to level things up. What a shot! It does not matter in the end as Djokovic holds his nerve and serve.
First set: Novak Djokovic 1-1 Aslan Karatsev* The first rally of the match ends with the Russian hitting the ball long. Karatsev finally gets a point on the board at 15-15 after Djokovic stretches to return a serve and sends it long. There seems to be plenty of support for the underdog in the crowd as they celebrate his every point on his way to winning the game.
First set: Novak Djokovic* 1-0 Aslan Karatsev Djokovic serves the opening game. The Serb makes light work of his opponent as he does not drop a single point, including a couple of aces.
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“Karatsev’s total career earnings stands at less than $800,000. Even if he loses this semi-final, he will more than double that at Melbourne Park.” Not a bad couple of weeks either way.
Young Max, who must be about eight years old, is asked who he would like to choose on the coin toss. He doesn’t even give Karatsev a second look. A bad start for the Russian.
The players are heading out onto court with a crowd dotted around the stands. It is good to see people are allowed in today to witness this match.
Karatsev is one helluva task ahead of him. The world No 114 is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open semis since Patrick McEnroe (also No 114) in 1991, and the lowest to make the final four of any major since Goran Ivanisevic (No 125), who won Wimbledon as a wildcard in 2001.
Djokovic, for a man with an abdominal injury, seems to be doing a pretty intensive pre-match workout on his core. I wouldn’t advise doing that with a gym ball.
Novak Djokovic says he was “emotionally drained” by his victory over Alexander Zverev in the quarters.
“Down to the very last shot it was anybody’s match,” said Djokovic, who has never lost when he has reached the last four in Melbourne. “A lot of nerves out there, a lot of pressure. Emotionally I feel a little bit drained. It was a great battle. We pushed each other to the limit.”
Will this help Karatsev today?
Thanks Emma. I confirm I am as awake as any man looking after a nine-week-old baby. I assume we are all here to see an upset but I suspect not many of us are too hopeful of seeing one.
I shall bid you all farewell now and hand you over to Will Unwin, who is just waking up in London in time to guide you through the evening’s action. It’s been a pleasure as always.
Not long now until another massive semi-final, this time between Novak Djokovic and Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.
Here is a preview ICYMI, which is mostly about the absurd contrast between these two players.
And to recap on Osaka’s commanding win over Williams herein Jonathan Howcroft’s report.
AAP has a nice little snippet of the Osaka v Brady clash:
HOW NAOMI OSAKA AND JENNIFER BRADY SHAPE UP AHEAD OF THEIR AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL ON SATURDAY NIGHT:
3-NAOMI OSAKA (JPN) leads 22-JENNIFER BRADY (USA) 2-1 (1-0 at grand slams)
2020 US Open, hard, SF, Osaka 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-3
2018 Charleston, clay, R64, Osaka 6-4 6-4
2014 New Braunfels, hard, R32, Brady 6-4 6-4
NAOMI OSAKA (JPN)
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US17,770,234
Career titles: 6
Grand slam titles: 3 (Australian Open 2019; US Open 2018, 2020)
Australian Open win-loss record: 21-4
Best Australian Open results: champion 2019, finalist 2021
JENNIFER BRADY (USA)
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US2,014,115
Career titles: 1
Grand slam titles: 0
Australian Open win-loss record: 9-3
Best Australian Open result: finalist 2021
I’ve typed a marathon, but Brady has played one. She came and she conquered, and now she’s talking to Casey Dellacqua.
“I can’t feel my legs. My legs are shaking, my heart is racing. I’m … I don’t have words,” she says to applause.
“After the first set I was, ‘OK, let’s try and focus here’. I came out a little. I don’t know, was feeling a little strange today. Was super excited, but at the same time pretty flat-footed. My legs felt fresh but I felt like I was stuck in mud. I didn’t really pick up, you know, my intensity until the beginning of the third set.”
And on facing Osaka in the final:
“I’m obviously pretty excited to be in the finals here at the Australian Open. It’s an incredible achievement. I think it will be a really tough match. Obviously she’s won a few grand slams. We had a tough match at the  US Open semi-finals. I think she even said it wasof her top two matches, which was a little unfortunate for me at the time, but I think it will be a really good match.”
Jennifer Brady beats Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
This might be the most important service game of Brady’s career. And she doesn’t hold back unleashing a piledriver of a serve Muchova can’t return and following it with an ace. She goes some way to undoing her good work with an unforced error but more than makes up for it with some of highest-quality shots of this match. One shot should be a winner, but it’s not purely because of Muchova’s nerve. But she finds her opening to set up two match points.
Brady is engaging with the fans now, needing everything. She cedes one match point and the second, oh my. She thinks she has won it but as she sinks to her knees the ball is called out. Apparently it is by 7mm. In an instant, her opening is gone. Muchova works for two break points and Brady literally cannot stop shaking her head. This is longest game of the match already and deuce No 3 becomes a third match point. Can she convert it this time? She faults, then falters after a bold return that pays dividends for Muchova, who is in a tight spot but still playing with freedom.
A case in point is the next point, a mini-encounter full of whooping and walloping and a Muchova volley that gives her an advantage. When will this end? Not yet. Deuce No 5 brings a cracker of a serve and Brady is working the top spin while Muchova opts for the slice. Brady hasher fourth match point. Ten minutes and counting. Fault, followed by another breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat rally. HOW IS MUCHOVA STILL IN THIS? Not only that, how is she still playing with such freedom, under such pressure? But she loses the advantage again. Brady has a fifth match point and again she faults. A pattern is developing here. This time, though, Muchova cracks. Brady sees the error and is on her knees and then her back.
The American 22nd seed is through to her first grand slam final and will face Naomi Osaka on Saturday in pursuit of the trophy. That may have been the most gripping match of the tournament, and there have been a few.
Third set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 6-3 4-5 Jennifer Brady You could hear a pin drop in Rod Laver Arena. To be fair, it’s not like there are many people to make meaningful noise, but the tension is palpable. Muchova is serving to stay in the Australian Open. Brady is matching her point for point until an inexplicable wild swing wide on return allows Muchova to live to fight another day.
Third set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 6-3 3-5 Jennifer Brady* A thrilling point ensues featuring just about everything, including a ground stroke from Brady that surely must have only nicked the outside of the baseline. But then the American is caught deep by a back-bending drop shot and she just about makes it but slips. But power abounds, and the chair umpire is soon wincing again as another ball rockets her way. Brady’s serve is under pressure. Muchova isn’t giving an inch, until she gives a little bit more than that and her head is in her hands. It might be in one more game.
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Third set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 6-3 3-4 Jennifer Brady Muchova has something to say about that to the tune of 40-0. Until, that is, she slaps down two unforced errors. If Brady can break again she’ll serve for the match. But a bullet of a serve and a return of return heavy on top spin takes care of that little hiccup.
Third set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 6-3 2-4 Jennifer Brady* Even under the pump, Brady is not sacrificing on agility. For this game at least, it overcomes Muchova’s raw grit. She is consolidating, readying for the final push.
Third set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 6-3 2-3 Jennifer Brady Had Muchova fallen victim to another break here you would predict that may have been it for her tournament. She does not.
Third set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 6-3 1-3 Jennifer Brady* A hold to love makes for the ultimate consolidation. A penny for the thoughts of both players, who are each under a different kind of pressure now. Brady to not choke, Muchova to make Brady choke.
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Third set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 6-3 1-2 Jennifer Brady Wow, what a turn in fortunes this game has been. Brady sorely needed a breakthrough and it arrives. She flies to 0-30 before Muchova makes a couple of mistakes and all of a sudden there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Win four more and she will be back here for the final.
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Third set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 6-3 1-1 Jennifer Brady* Brady goes down 0-15 but does not cede a point thereafter and levels with an ace.
Third set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 6-3 1-0 Jennifer Brady In line with this, a hold to love kicks off the deciding set.
Second set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 6-3 Jennifer Brady* Brady thinks she is controlling a rally by she’s not ready for the backspin coming her way and 40-15 has turned into deuce. A good forehand give Muchova the advantage before Brady echoes her opponent by double faulting her way to a set loss. The Muchova comeback is under way. It’s almost like she’s done this before Oh wait …
Second set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 5-3 Jennifer Brady How about those quick hands! Muchova serves then approaches the net. Brady opts for something less than fantastic and her Czech opponent manages to absorb the ball’s pace and place a drop volley out of reach. She holds to love.
Second set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 4-3 Jennifer Brady* Muchova has picked up a new racket during the change of ends but it’s Brady who means business now with a searing serve that yields three game points. Now she cedes one after attempting to rush matters and has a word with herself. There’s “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed” vibes as she shakes her head. It doesn’t matter – she converts the next.
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Second set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 4-2 Jennifer Brady Muchova is making her first serve count big time. Up 30-0, she loses her very first point on serve this set courtesy of a strong Brady return. But the relief does not last long for the American, who is swishing at her strings after a less-than-desirable rally.
Second set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 3-2 Jennifer Brady* Brady follows suit, finishing with a second serve of 181km/h if you don’t mind.
Second set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 3-1 Jennifer Brady Muchova holds to love.
Second set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 2-1 Jennifer Brady* At the risk of jumping the gun or spoiling plot, there’s a sense Osaka would be too strong for either player on the court right now. Of course, that is jumping the gun big time. Muchova beat Barty and Brady has been strong throughout the tournament. Just something to think on.
Second set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 2-0 Jennifer Brady Muchova skips to a hold to love with an energy indicating she very much intends to push this to a deciding stanza.
Second set: Karolina Muchova 4-6 1-0 Jennifer Brady* As the second set gets under way it has emerged Williams left her press conference in tears when asked what went wrong in her semi-final with Osaka and whether this would be her last Australian Open.
“If I was saying farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” she said.
Here is Jonathan Howcroft’s report of that match.
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First set: Karolina Muchova* 4-6 Jennifer Brady Bit of a war of attrition this game. Until 30-40, that is, when Muchova gets the yips and serves her first double fault of the match. That’s the first set done and dusted.
First set: Karolina Muchova 4-5 Jennifer Brady* This could be a bit of a moment in this match. Muchova has more to say in Brady’s service game than her opponent, highlighted by a wonderful backhand passing shot she takes on the back foot. But Brady has fought back from 0-30 has a game point she converts. Apart from that uneven unforced error count it is hard to pick who has the edge in this match. To wit, it is 24 points apiece as of now.
First set: Karolina Muchova* 4-4 Jennifer Brady Muchova, though, is composed. She has an ace, and Brady her 16th unforced error (to Muchova’s five). The hold is to love.
First set: Karolina Muchova 3-4 Jennifer Brady* Muchova has an opening at 15-30 but Brady’s serve is too strong and the return is short, landing inside the service box just waiting for a winner. The next rally is a long one. Muchova doesn’t like this – she wins or loses 70% of all her points in the first four shots – and she diverts the ball into the net. She does that again a couple of points later, which will get her punished against Brady and even more punished against someone like Osaka, should she make the final.
First set: Karolina Muchova* 3-3 Jennifer Brady Brady is piling on the unforced errors. Her accuracy is off and it’s bleeding points. Even when she gets them back, Muchova has a response and she is making the American run for an less-preferable backhand which she only just makes contact with and which Muchova smashes down the other side.
First set: Karolina Muchova 2-3 Jennifer Brady* The pair are trading groundstrokes and Brady clearly prefers her forehand, running around the ball a lot of the time it comes down the left-hand side of the court. That’s for good reason but it also leaves her line somewhat open and Muchova has a backhand to deal with this. Muchova presses the issue but her opponent holds.
First set: Karolina Muchova* 2-2 Jennifer Brady She does with ease via some clever shot selection and helped on her way with a couple of mistakes from Brady. No points dropped.
First set: Karolina Muchova 1-2 Jennifer Brady* There are some vicious shots flying around here. One narrowly misses a ball boy, and one point later the chair umpire is flinching. The power is coming both ways but Muchova has the edge in a game chock full of unforced errors. Brady is down a break point and double faults. If Muchova can hold the set will be back on serve.
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