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2023 Australian Open: Paul's run ended by Djokovic in SF

Arthur Kapetanakis | January 27, 2023

Tommy Paul gave nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic all he could handle at the start of their semifinal matchup on Friday, but the Serbian had all the answers in Rod Laver Arena. In a 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 victory, Djokovic passed one of his toughest tests of the Melbourne fortnight to end Paul's best Grand Slam run.


In the women's doubles competition, No. 2 seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula also saw their campaign come to a close with a 6-2, 7-6(7) defeat to the Japanese duo of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara.


There was some American success on Day 12, as junior Learner Tien advanced to the boys' singles final and won the boys' doubles title with compatriot Cooper Williams. 

Paul craving titles after breakout run

Paul quickly found himself 5-1 down in his first meeting with 21-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, with the Serbian creating a set point to seal a 6-1 opening stanza. But Paul stormed back to level the set at 5-5, getting the better of the fourth seed in extended baseline rallies as he garnered the support of the Laver crowd.


Djokovic would regroup to snatch the opening set, starting a run of seven straight games to take control of the match. Even within that stretch, Paul threatened with three break points at 2-0 in the second, troubling a weary Djokovic who survived with big serving. Just when it looked like there was a way back for the American, the fourth seed found a second wind to sail through the finish.

"It was weird," Paul said of the opening set. "When the match started, it felt like things were getting away from me really fast, felt like points were moving really fast, time in between point time was going really quick.


"He gave me a couple looks. I extended a couple points. I feel like he got a little irritated with something. The crowd started getting a little rowdy. It started getting really fun.


"I got it to 5-all. I don't really remember what happened there... Obviously I should have done something different, or he stepped up and played great tennis."


Despite the defeat, the 25-year-old can take plenty of positives from his time in Melbourne. He will leave Australia as the newest member of the ATP's Top 20, set for a career high of world No. 19. Paul will be one of three Americans in the Top 20 on Monday — behind No. 8 Taylor Fritz and No. 15 Frances Tiafoe — and one of 10 in the Top 50.


"I'm stoked to have made the semis here," he said in his post-match presser. "Great two weeks for me. Obviously I've got to carry it throughout the whole season. It's about consistency, you know? I don't want to be a one-hit wonder."


Speaking about his goals for the rest of the 2023 season, he later added: "I want to keep moving up the rankings. It would be nice to end the year Top 10. I feel like the way I started year is the right path to do it.


"Obviously I have a lot of matches to win this year. Hopefully get some titles, too. I don't want to just lose in semifinals. I want to have my name on some trophies this year."

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