By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A rampant Novak Djokovic completed a stunning 6-0 6-2 6-2 demolition of Lucas Pouille on Friday to storm into his seventh Australian Open final and set up a mouthwatering title match with Rafa Nadal.
The six-times champion was at his devastating best in the one hour and 23 minute procession as he gave the hapless Pouille a brutal lesson in Grand Slam tennis and extended his perfect semi-finals record to 7-0 at Melbourne Park.
A day after second seed Nadal conceded only six games to 20-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in their one-sided semi-final, Djokovic continued the next generation smack-down by coughing up only four.
Attacking the lines with machine-like precision, he broke the 28th-seeded Frenchman seven times yet never looked in danger of conceding a break point.
He struggled to remember whether he had played any better in his previous Melbourne semi-finals.
“It’s definitely one of the best matches I have ever had on this court, definitely. Everything worked the way I intended before the match,” said Djokovic, after Pouille netted meekly on a second match point.
The score would suggest it was Djokovic’s most dominant semi, just edging the 6-2 6-2 6-1 humiliation of David Ferrer in the 2013 tournament.
Only five unforced errors came off his racket, 22 fewer than Pouille’s haul.
Bidding for his 15th Grand Slam title and a record seventh at Melbourne Park, Djokovic will meet Nadal in Sunday’s final seven years after edging him in a five hour 53-minute epic, the longest Grand Slam final on record.
“I would definitely want to buy the ticket for the match, for those who haven’t yet,” Djokovic quipped in his on-court interview.
“That (2012 final) was a once in a life-time event and hopefully the outcome will be the same for me.”
Before he and Pouille entered the court on Friday, all the signs pointed to a comfortable Djokovic win.
His quarter-final against Kei Nishikori lasted only 52 minutes before the 29-year-old Japanese retired, while Pouille slogged through more than three hours against Milos Raonic.
The Serb was unbeaten by Frenchmen in 27 previous matches at the Grand Slams, his last defeat coming against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2010 quarter-finals in Melbourne.
A nervous-looking Pouille felt the weight of history and was soon under siege, striking a double-fault to fall 2-0 behind.
That was all the head-start Djokovic needed as he roared to a 5-0 lead before many fans had settled in their seats.
The Serb smiled ruefully after wasting a set point with an ambitious drop shot from the baseline falling short.
But with another two in the bank, he could afford the luxury.
Pouille did little with the reprieve, smacking a wild forehand long, and the set was gone in 23 minutes.
A low rumble of unease coursed through the stadium as Djokovic broke to lead 3-1 in the second, with fans being served up an execution rather than treated to a contest.
After Pouille held serve to 4-2, the crowd erupted.
But even his most loyal fans would have tutted at how he conceded the second set in 33 minutes.
He squandered a chance to hold serve with an errant backhand then lazily fired wide off the same wing to give up a two-set lead.
From there it was academic, as Djokovic whipped through the last set in 27 minutes, with Pouille yet another of the Tour’s young hopefuls left humbled by the master Serb.
“When he’s like this, he’s unbelievable, and not so many players can beat him for sure,” said 24-year-old Pouille.
“Maybe one or two. I don’t really know what to say.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)