Paul says Djokovic thwarted his Australian Open game plan

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tommy Paul entered his first career Grand Slam semifinal with a specific game plan to face Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. It makes sense, right? You have to approach this kind of match in a way that you think will help you win.

And then, Paul explained, it all came crashing down pretty quickly in what became a 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 loss to Djokovic, who won nine of his 21 Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park. .

“I mean, he wouldn’t let me do all those things,” said the 25-year-old American, who was born in New Jersey, grew up in North Carolina and is now based in Florida, “because of things he did so well.

They performed under the lights to a packed house at Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic knows these parameters and circumstances so well, especially in a tournament where he has won 27 games in a row and is 19-0 in semi-finals and finals for his career. He will face Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday for the title.

“I mean, walking down the court was cool,” said Paul, the first American in the semi-final at Melbourne Park since Andy Roddick in 2009. “To play the game and get beaten like that kind of sucked. But, I mean, it’s great to see the level I want to be at and know how hard I have to play if I want to beat people like that. I think it was a good experience.

Let unclassified Paul explain what his strategy was and what happened:

“I wanted to serve and rob a few. I haven’t served and flown once. … When I made my first serve, I felt like he was bringing it back to the baseline. I was automatically on defense. Like, you go down love-30 in your service games, it’s hard to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to serve and steal now.’ “

“I wanted to throw drop shots. He didn’t get a chance to do all that because he was hitting so deep.

— “I wanted to change the rhythm with my slice. I missed my first three slices of the match. I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to start hitting my backhand; I’m not doing well today.

— “Attack on the second serve. It definitely surprised me. On the big points, he spent the big seconds. At just about every point, the average second-serve speed was a little higher than I thought.

That said, Paul made some inroads against Djokovic.

He did, after all, win over 23 points that lasted at least nine strokes, 14-9.

There were the two break points in the opener of the match – although Djokovic ended up sticking to it.

“I felt like things were moving away from me very quickly,” Paul said. “I felt like the dots were moving really fast. The time between dots was going really fast.

There was the four-game streak that turned Paul’s 5-1 deficit to 5-all in the first set – although Djokovic went on to proceed seven in a row and 14 of the remaining 17.

“I was really lucky to keep my nerves towards the end of the first set. It was a key,” Djokovic said. “After that, I started swinging the ball more.”

Paul, 35th, had never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament before.

His first trip to the semi-finals of a major will push his ranking into the top 20 for the first time.

“I want to keep climbing the rankings, you know? It would be nice to finish the year in the top 10. I feel like the way I started the year is the right way to do that,” he said. “Obviously I have a lot of games to win this year. I also hope to get titles. I don’t just want to lose in the semi-finals. I want to have my name on some trophies.


AP Tennis: and


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