MELBOURNE, Australia — There’s just one singles match at Melbourne Park on Day 12, with Novak Djokovic and Lucas Pouille meeting in the second men’s semifinal (7 p.m. Friday local time; 3:30 a.m. ET on ESPN).
On paper, this clash looks rather lopsided, with world No. 1 Djokovic coasting into the final four while Pouille finds himself in unfamiliar Grand Slam territory.
Still, does Pouille have a chance? Let’s break it down:
It wasn’t as if Djokovic needed any favors, but …
As a 14-time Grand Slam champion and six-time winner at Melbourne Park, Djokovic doesn’t need any help when it comes to having success in Australia.
However, that’s exactly what he got Wednesday, when quarterfinal opponent Kei Nishikori, who had played three five-set matches in the tournament, retired with a leg injury after 52 minutes.
That meant Djokovic received his 11th win at a major via retirement — the most by any player in history — to fill the last semifinal spot.
Djokovic has spent 10 hours, 36 minutes on court this fortnight — 4 hours, 31 minutes less than his semifinal opponent. Djokovic is fresh, is firing and has a huge advantage.
Oh, and how about this? On the six occasions he has reached the Aussie semis, he has gone on to hoist the trophy.
But don’t count out Pouille just yet
Before the tournament began, Pouille had never won a match here. The Frenchman was 0-5 in Australian Open play. He is 5-0 this year and one win away from one of the most unlikely finals berths we’ve seen in some time.
Pouille, 24, has been ultra-impressive en route to this stage, earning hard-fought wins over Australian wild card Alexei Popyrin and Croatian 11th seed Borna Coric before upsetting former world No. 3 Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic will be a sterner test, of course. Pouille must continue to serve well and play the aggressive style of tennis that has held him in good stead this past fortnight. If he can, he might just frustrate Djokovic.
Who wins the match?
No matter how you analyze this one, it’s difficult to see Djokovic losing. He has far too much experience and is playing at a level very few can match.
This will be Djokovic’s 34th semifinal appearance at a Grand Slam, while Pouille has never made a run this deep at a major.
If Pouille plays at his absolute best, he could take a set, but anything more than that is a stretch.
What we’re saying is Djokovic in straight sets.