Deadly Djokovic demolishes powerless Pouille

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 over three mercifully quick sets to reach the Australian Open final against 'greatest rival' Rafael Nadal.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 over three mercifully quick sets to reach the Australian Open final against 'greatest rival' Rafael Nadal.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE • Novak Djokovic left Lucas Pouille in a heap after three mercifully quick sets to reach his seventh Australian Open final - where he has never lost - and his dazzling performance will have given Rafael Nadal much to think about before tomorrow.

The world No. 1 was magnificent yesterday and as ruthless as he has been in any win since his outstanding year in 2011.

He started the match with an ace and drilled 24 winners past his bewildered opponent en route to a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 demolition job.

The loser succinctly put it later: "He just played amazing."

The winner's verdict was almost mystical in its interpretation.

The Serb said: "Every professional athlete wants to be in the zone, where everything flows so effortlessly and you are executing automatically everything you are intending to execute.

"You don't need to think too much. I guess you're driven by some force that takes over you and you feel divine, you feel like in a different dimension. It's quite an awesome feeling that we all try to reach and stay in."

In truth, it was a mismatch.

As a public execution, it would have drawn an awed crowd. As a warning to his Spanish rival, it was tantamount to a declaration of war.

So, the most blood-spattered rivalry in tennis - across 52 matches - is extended in a perfect setting: a major final between the top two players in the game.

Djokovic leads their personal tally by two, while Nadal has 17 major titles to his opponent's 14.

Asked if he was trying to better Nadal's 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 win over Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas the previous day, he simply said: "Yes."

A seventh Melbourne Park title would put him alongside Roger Federer and Roy Emerson in Australian tennis history, but Nadal, who has gone through this tournament like a hot knife through butter, will not be blown away like Pouille was - unless he is struck down by injury, as he was in the last eight last year.

His history with Djokovic is long and glory-filled. In 2012, at the same Major, they played in one of the great finals in the history of the sport - the longest Grand Slam decider of them all at 5hr 53min.

When asked how he would describe that titanic battle to his children, Djokovic smiled and said: "I'll probably not have them sit down and watch it because I don't like my children to watch TV that long.

"But I would probably present it in more a general concept of our rivalry. That match would be the icing on the cake. Throughout my life and career, Nadal been the greatest rival that I played against on all surfaces."

Pouille wants his tormentor to go on and win, to validate his own effort. But he is not predicting another blitz in the final.

"When he's (Djokovic) playing like this, he's the best in the world," Pouille said. "We'll see on Sunday because Rafa looks pretty amazing, too."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2019, with the headline 'Deadly Djokovic demolishes powerless Pouille'. Print Edition | Subscribe