AO 2024 – Day 10: All-star semi-finals

The two reigning champions will meet in-form familiar foes in the last four at Melbourne Park.

Coco Gauff / Quarts de finale Open d'Australie 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

It's now officially the business end of an exhilarating Australian Open 2024.

We have a US Open final rematch on the women's side and then a generational battle locked in on the men's side. Here are the key headlines from Down Under…

"Grade C" Coco finds a way

Brad Gilbert, the current coach of Coco Gauff, wrote a bestselling book called ‘Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis.'

Gauff's mom bought her a copy when they were in discussions about hiring the renowned coach.

"I didn't read it," said the teenager. "I feel like I got the real version so I don't need a book. But maybe it could help. I'll probably do it just to surprise him."

It seems like the No.4 seed had dived into a few chapters, prevailing in an undulating 7-6(6), 6-7(3), 6-2 battle with world No.37 Marta Kostyuk on Rod Laver Arena.

1-5 down in the first set, Gauff somehow roared back. Serving for the second set at 5-3, Gauff was somehow pegged back. After three hours and eight minutes of nail-biting action, the American found herself in a maiden Australian Open semi-final.

"Today was definitely a C game,” suggested the 19-year-old. “Tennis is problem solving… Didn't play my best tennis, but really proud that I was able to get through. Hopefully got the bad match out of the way and I can play even better."

Six in a row for Sabalenka

Reigning champion Sabalenka has motored into the last four, not losing more than three games in any set, swatting aside opponents with calculated, yet dynamite tennis.

The 25-year-old was a class apart on Tuesday night, commanding proceedings 6-2, 6-3 over Roland-Garros 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova.

In doing so, the ultra-consistent Sabalenka booked a sixth successive Grand Slam semi-final spot.

"I think my mindset that I'm not getting crazy on court, I'm not rushing things," said Sabalenka, describing her mental evolution in recent campaigns.

"I'm just fighting for every point without overthinking about my dreams, about what I want to do, about how many slams I want to win and all that stuff."

Back to New York

Rewind to September and Gauff fulfilled her destiny to become a major champion with a three-set comeback over Sabalenka at the US Open.

This is one almighty semi-final showdown.

"I love it. After US Open, I really wanted that revenge," admitted Sabalenka, 2-4 in their head-to-head.

"She's moving really well. Everything you do on court it's coming back. So, you need to build the point probably couple times in one point, to finish the point. That's why she's really tough opponent.

"It's always great battles against Coco, with really great fights. I'm happy to play her, and I'm super excited to play that semi-final."

Undefeated at 10-0 in 2024, after defending her Auckland title earlier this month, Gauff knows her A or B game will be required to take on No.2 seed Sabalenka in the semi-finals. 

Due to her supreme dominance, Sabalenka has spent just five hours and 13 minutes on court so far, yielding a winner to unforced errors ratio of plus 28.

"Aryna, always a tough match with her. I think she's playing well this tournament. Obviously that US Open final was tough," recalled Gauff, up 3-0 in previous Grand Slam semi-finals.

"I feel like mentally I'm one of the strongest out there… It does give me confidence knowing that at least in that stage of a Grand Slam that my nerves are usually settled."

Coco Gauff & Aryna Sabalenka / Finale US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Djokovic digs deep once again

It wasn't world No.1 Novak Djokovic's favourite day on court, "suffering, a lot of suffering in every aspect," in a 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 tussle with America's leading light Taylor Fritz.

The scorching sun, Fritz unleashing at the earliest possible chance, it was a severe mental and physical test for the 10-time champion.

Djokovic was 0 from 15 break points in the first two sets, but in trademark fashion, turned his discomfort on court into a challenge, into preservation of his mind-boggling records.

In doing so, the reigning champion extends his run to 33 consecutive victories at Melbourne Park, equalling the tally of one of his childhood idols Monica Seles in the 1990s.

"I don't want to let that go," said a defiant Djokovic. "The longer the streak goes, the more that kind of confidence, also expectations built, but also the willingness to really walk the extra mile."

Sinner well on song

Jannik Sinner hasn't had to go the extra mile yet.

'The Fox' has displayed his tennis intelligence in abundance to navigate through five rounds without dropping a set.

High-octane tennis was on the menu once again as Sinner dismissed No.5 seed Andrey Rublev 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3 to chalk up his second career major semi-final.

The Italian dissolved all eight of Rublev's break point opportunities. Also, down 1-5 in the second set tie-break, Sinner elevated his game, rattling through six points to snatch away the initiative.

It was proactive, it was bold, it was pivotal and that knife edge thrills the 22-year-old. 

"It was really, really tight. But actually these kind of moments I really love to play," stated Sinner. "This is what I practice for and I'm really excited when we always have these pressure points and I'm just trying to stay aggressive. It went my way today so I'm really happy."

Djokovic vs Sinner VII

The last time Sinner made a Grand Slam semi-final was Wimbledon 2023, when Djokovic enjoyed a straight sets passage at SW19.

Since then, Sinner has evolved to force his way into major contention and has split riveting rollercoasters with Djokovic at the ATP Finals in November. Then, the Italian miraculously erased three successive match points to defy Djokovic en route to guiding his nation to Davis Cup glory.

Is this Sinner's time?

"He's probably playing the tennis of his life," hailed Djokovic.

"He had a fantastic ending to the last season and we had a couple of great encounters in Torino, also in Davis Cup, very close ones, going 7-6, 7-5 in the third. So, I can expect him to play at the highest level."

Djokovic has endured 15 hours and nine minutes on court this fortnight, the most the 10-time champion has ever spent to clear the first five hurdles in Melbourne.

As every player knows, Djokovic always finds a way, finds an extra resource. Sinner will need to continue to be bold, continue to attack, to bring a surprise or two.

"I'm really lucky to face him again. This is one of the biggest tournaments in the world. Happy that I can play against the No.1 in the world who won here, some times," joked Sinner.

"It's gonna be tough but the only thing I can control is that I will give my 100 percent, I will fight for every ball and then we'll see what the outcome will be."