Novak Djokovic storms past Lucas Pouille to set up final against Rafael Nadal

Djokovic is in to his seventh Aussie Open final, he is yet to lose one. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2019
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Novak Djokovic storms past Lucas Pouille to set up final against Rafael Nadal

  • Serb makes light work of Frenchman to set up classic clash in Melbourne.
  • Djokovic looking for a record seventh Australian Open title.

MELBOURNE: A rampant Novak Djokovic completed a stunning 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 demolition of Lucas Pouille to storm into his seventh Australian Open final and set up a mouthwatering title match with Rafal Nadal.
The six-times champion was at his devastating best in the one hour and 23 minute procession as he gave the hapless Pouille a brutal lesson in Grand Slam tennis and extended his perfect semifinals record to 7-0 at Melbourne Park.
Attacking the lines with machine-like precision, Djokovic broke the 28th-seeded Frenchman seven times yet never looked in danger of conceding a break point.
Top seed Djokovic wrapped up the encounter on the second match point when Pouille netted and the Serb will face Nadal in search of a record seventh title in Melbourne.
Djokovic was left struggling to remember whether he had played any better in his previous Melbourne semifinals.
“It’s definitely one of the best matches I have ever had on this court, definitely. Everything worked the way I intended before the match,” he said.
Djokovic will meet second-seeded Spaniard Nadal in Sunday’s final seven years after the Serb prevailed in a five hour 53-minute epic at the 2012 tournament, the longest Grand Slam final on record.
“I would definitely want to buy the ticket for the match, for those who haven’t yet,” he quipped in his on-court interview.
“That’s (2012 final) a once in a life-time event and hopefully the outcome will be the same for me.”
Even before entering the court on Friday, Djokovic was a heavy favorite on paper.
No Frenchman had beaten him in 27 previous matches at the Grand Slams, his last defeat coming against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2010 quarter-finals in Melbourne.
A nervous-looking Pouille felt the weight of history and was soon under siege on serve.
After saving two break points, he struck a double-fault to fall 2-0 behind.
That was all the head-start Djokovic needed as he roared to a 5-0 lead before many of the center court fans had settled in their seats.
Djokovic smiled ruefully after wasting a set point with an ambitious drop shot from the baseline.
But with another two in the bank and an anxious opponent, he could afford the luxury.
Pouille did little with the reprieve, smacking a forehand long, and when the dust had cleared, he looked up to see the set was gone in 23 minutes.
A low rumble of unease coursed through the stadium as Djokovic broke the Frenchman to lead 3-1 in the second, with fans being served up an execution rather than treated to a contest.
After Pouille held serve to 4-2, the crowd erupted.
There was plenty of good will toward the Frenchman at center court but even his most loyal fans would have tutted at the way he conceded the second set in 33 minutes.
He squandered a chance to hold serve with an errant backhand then lazily fired wide off the same wing to hand the Serb a two-set lead.
From there it was academic, as Djokovic whipped through the last set in 27 minutes, with Pouille yet another of the Tour’s young hopefuls left humbled by the master Serb.


Williams, Clippers force Game 6 against Warriors

Updated 3 min 58 sec ago
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Williams, Clippers force Game 6 against Warriors

  • Rockets advance to second round with 100-93 victory over Jazz

OAKLAND: Lou Williams again came off the bench and knocked down big shot after big shot. Patrick Beverley crashed the boards at every chance. Danilo Gallinari drove the lane with authority.

The Los Angeles Clippers took the Warriors right out of their comfort zone by beating the two-time defending champions at their own game with energy on both ends, extending their season long after many had counted them out.

Williams hit a fadeaway jumper with 1:29 left and finished with 33 points and 10 assists, Golden State uncharacteristically clanked shots much of the second half and could not make key stops, and the upstart Clippers sent their first-round series back home with a 129-121 Game 5 win on Wednesday night.

No clinch celebration just yet for the two-time defending champions, who lead 3-2 but needed far more than Kevin Durant’s playoff career-high 45 points.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself. They’re up 3-2 still, but I just loved how we played, I really did,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “All we talked about is being us. I told our guys, they’ve been them in the series. We have yet to put a game where we are us through the game.”

The Clippers stymied Golden State’s comeback effort on the very court at Oracle Arena where Los Angeles rallied from 31 points down in Game 2 for the largest comeback in NBA postseason history.

Game 6 is Friday back in Los Angeles.

Beverley took a big charge against Klay Thompson with 1:40 left and wound up with 17 points and 14 rebounds for his best outing of the series.

“I thought Patrick Beverley came in, just kicked our butts right away,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He came out with more energy than we had and that set a tone.”

Houston and James Harden are on to the second round and waiting for another chance at the champs. The Clippers said not just yet, they’re not done.

The Rockets, who squandered a 3-2 series lead to the Warriors in last year’s Western Conference finals, eliminated the Jazz with a 100-93 Game 5 victory at home a few hours earlier Wednesday. Sure, the Warriors have thought about a potential second-round matchup.

“Our focus was to come in and extend the series and get another game on our home floor,” Williams said. “It’s their mistake for looking ahead. That’s on them.”

Gallinari added 26 points and seven rebounds, and Montrezl Harrell had 24 points as the eighth-seeded Clippers are keeping things interesting until the end.

“We’ve got to bring it if we’re going to beat them,” Kerr said.

Durant raised his arm late and called on the Oracle Arena crowd for a major assist — the Warriors needed every little bit of help. Thompson’s 3 with 4:02 left made it 116-114 and Durant tied it on a driving dunk the next time down.

Stephen Curry scored 24 points and Thompson 22 but Golden State did not have it on defense.

“If we come out and just think we’re going to roll over this team because they’re an 8 seed, it doesn’t work that way in the NBA playoffs,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said.

Durant shot 14 for 26 in his third performance of at least 30 points in the series and ninth 40-point postseason effort.

Curry, already the NBA’s career playoff leader for made 3-pointers, reached 400 postseason 3s.

But the Warriors — all of them, their best shooters — missed badly on good looks and could not defend the way they typically do to generate that sensational transition game.

“That’s the worst-case scenario for any team. You’re missing shots and can’t get stops, you feel like you’re in a bottomless pit,” Durant said. “Hopefully we knock down shots and get stops next game.”

Golden State trailed 71-63 at halftime despite making 10 of 16 3s but allowed Los Angeles to shoot 56 percent, and the Clippers finished at 54.1 percent.

Gallinari hit a 3 out of the break then a free throw following Draymond Green’s technical and Los Angeles made it 81-66 on JaMychal Green’s 3 at the 9:09 mark.

“It’s been a year where things haven’t gone exactly smoothly all the time,” Kerr said. “I’m not surprised by anything, but I expected to come out and play better and win the game. But it’s the NBA playoffs. This is a seven-game series and you’ve got to play. You’ve got to defend with some urgency.”