Lucas Pouille was the punching bag but the blows were for Rafael Nadal as Novak Djokovic stormed through to an Australian Open final with his great rival.
Twenty-four hours after Nadal defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas for the loss of just six games, Djokovic needed only an hour and 23 minutes to dispatch Frenchman Pouille 6-0 6-2 6-2 in one of the most one-sided semi-finals in grand slam history.
Djokovic has at times looked below his best this tournament, dropping sets to Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev, but he took to Rod Laver Arena yesterday evening determined to make a statement.
Asked if he was trying to outdo Nadal, a smiling Djokovic replied: “Yes. It was hard to do that, but somehow I managed.
“He has played impressively well throughout the entire tournament. He hasn’t dropped a set. He looked as good as ever on the hard court throughout these few weeks.
“I haven’t played bad myself the last couple of matches. I think that this final comes at the right time for both of us. I’m sure we’re going to have a blast on the court.
He’s my biggest rival in my career. I’ve played so many matches against him, epic matches on this court. Of course, the one that stands out was the final of six hours in 2012.Novak Djokovic
“We can promise one thing, and that’s knowing both of us are going to give absolutely everything out on the court. I think people will enjoy it.
“He’s my biggest rival in my career. I’ve played so many matches against him, epic matches on this court. Of course, the one that stands out was the final of six hours in 2012. Hopefully we don’t go that long this time.”
That clash, which Djokovic won 7-5 in the fifth set after five hours and 53 minutes, was the longest slam final in history and also the last time they met at Melbourne Park.
In total, they have played each other 52 times, with Djokovic leading 27-25, although Nadal has a 9-5 advantage in slams.
Djokovic is bidding to become the first man to win seven titles at Melbourne Park, while a win for Nadal would make him the first of three men – Roger Federer included – to have won each of the grand slams twice.
It is a first meeting for the pair since another of their most memorable battles in the last four of Wimbledon last summer, which Djokovic won 10-8 in the final set.