Only four players remain in the men’s singles competition at this year’s Australian Open with the semi-finals taking place on Friday.
Big names such as Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud and Daniil Medvedev crashed out prematurely in Melbourne this year, enabling outsiders Karen Khachanov and Tommy Paul to create paths to the last four.
But, however, they are joined by two players with plenty of Australian Open experience behind them Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic.
The betting odds suggest there could be one-way traffic in both of the men’s semi-finals.
Here is a look at how the matches could unfold and which two players could be heading to the final in Melbourne on Sunday 29th January in search of the season’s first Grand Slam.
Tsitsipas is expected to be far too strong for Khachanov. With the large Greek population in Melbourne and similar weather to that in Athens, it is no wonder Tsitsipas refers to the Australian Open as his own ”home Slam”.
The 24-year-old loves these courts and is playing in the AO semi-finals for the fourth time in the last five years.
Last year he fell at this stage against Medvedev but Tsitsipas is brimming with confidence right now and should reach only his second-ever Grand Slam final at the expense of improving Khachanov.
Khachanov performed well in the quarter-finals, leading 2-0 sets against plucky Sebastian Korda before the American had to retire injured, handing Khachanov a spot in the last four.
The 26-year-old is at this stage on merit but it is fair to say he has had one of the softer runs to the semi-finals at this year’s AO.
His third-round opponent Francis Tiafoe, who was the 16th seed, was the highest-ranked player he has faced.
Tsitsipas has also had an easier run than anticipated but has won four of his five matches in straight sets and dug deep in the other, edging 15th seed Jannick Sinner in a five-set thriller.
Experience is on the side of Tsitsipas, who also leads the H2H between these players 5-0 with four of those wins coming on the hard courts.
Djokovic will show class again on Melbourne hard courts. Hamstring issues threatened to derail Djokovic’s Australian Open campaign earlier in the tournament with the Serbian requiring medical timeouts in the second and third rounds in Melbourne.
He has since quashed any injury concerns with comfortable wins over Alex De Minaur and Andrey Rublev.
The nine-time AO winner has gotten stronger as the tournament has progressed this month, having not dropped a set since the second round, and Djokovic’s hunger in Melbourne is unquestionable.
If he can justify betting odds of 1/5 to win outright, Djokovic will take his tally of AO titles to ten and will level Nadal’s overall Grand Slam tally of 22.
A determined Djokovic is dangerous and he goes into this match on a 26-match winning streak in the Australian Open. That spells bad news for 25-year-old American Tommy Paul, ranked 35, who has never gone this far at a Grand Slam before.
Players can only beat those in front of them but the draw has helped Paul, who has faced nobody in the top 20 at this year’s AO.
He was made to work for victory by Ben Shelton last time out, dropping a set and going to a tiebreak in the first set – his inexperience could be clear to see against a master of the game like Djokovic.