On Day 10 of the Australian Open, American Tommy Paul punched his ticket to somewhere he's never gone before: the semifinal of a Grand Slam.
The 25-year-old Paul, unseeded at the Australian Open, beat fellow unseeded American Ben Shelton 7-6(6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to become the first American man to make the Australian Open semifinals since Andy Roddick in 2009.
It came down to experience strength between Paul and Shelton. The young Shelton (just 20) can be electric, but Paul's experience playing high-ranked opponents on a larger stage won out. While Shelton slammed 24 aces, he racked up 50 unforced errors to Paul's 26. Paul was able to hang around during longer volleys and continue to send blazing returns toward Shelton, showing off the kind of endurance Shelton will one day possess.
High calibre tennis from these two 🇺🇸@TommyPaul1 • @wwos • @espn • @Eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/7ptSUbw4eP— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2023
Shelton managed to stave off elimination by staging a successful comeback in the third set after being down 3-4, but the momentum had run out by the time he was down 3-4 in the fourth set. He won just one more game before Paul closed it out.
Paul is one of several former junior stars who have recently been making major leaps. He played on the junior circuit with Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, who have each had their own breakouts over the past year. Now it's his turn to stand in the spotlight, and after 14 appearances at major tournaments, he's ready for it.
Of course, now comes the really hard part: beating Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic easily advances to semifinals
Novak Djokovic is taking no prisoners on his march to capture his 10th Australian Open trophy and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title. The No. 4 seed absolutely crushed No. 5 Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in a breezy two hours and three minutes.
Djokovic still has his left thigh wrapped due to a nagging hamstring injury, but it didn't seem to hamper him at all. He cut through Rublev like a hot knife through butter, playing well, returning with ease, and doing things only Djokovic can do. The score in the first set especially didn't reflect how close some of the games were, but it was clear early that Djokovic was in charge. Rublev managed to get a tiny toehold in the third set, but he couldn't hold on.
Making the hard courts look easy 💪@DjokerNole is into his 10th #AusOpen semifinal!@wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/bLy6VAxKZG— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2023
During this bracket-busting tournament, the number of players who could conceivably beat Novak Djokovic dwindled more and more each day. In the end, the only one left who even had a shot was Rublev. And when he finally faced Djokovic, there was no question as to who the more dominant player was — and it wasn't Rublev.
Sabalenka defeats Vekic to reach first Aussie Open semifinal
Aryna Sabalenka, the No. 5 seed, bounded into the semifinals on Wednesday after a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory over unseeded upstart Donna Vekic.
Sabalenka was never seriously in trouble during the match. She and Vekic tied twice during the first set, which included a number of very long games, but she never trailed. In the second set, Sabalenka jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Vekic even got on the board. Standing over six-feet tall and with incredible strength, Sabalenka is a menace even when she's not at her best. Unfortunately for Vekic, she was at her best on Wednesday, as she's been for awhile now.
Sabalenka has been on an absolute tear over the past few months. She's made the semifinals in four of her last six Grand Slams, and keeps getting closer and closer to making it to the top. With the rest of Sabalenka's opponents being unseeded, this could be her moment.
Linette's dream run continues with win over Pliskova
Late bloomer Magda Linette's Australian Open dream isn't over yet. The unseeded 30-year-old beat No. 30 Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 in decisive fashion, with the match lasting less than 90 minutes.
However, it didn't begin well for Linette. She started on serve and was immediately broken by Pliskova. It felt like a bad omen, but she rebounded quickly and won six of the next eight games to take the first set. Things got harder in the second set with Pliskova fighting for her life, but Linette was able to handle the uptick in intensity by staying calm, something she later said was her greatest accomplishment of the match.
Pliskova actually got pretty close to forcing a third set. Tied 5-5 in the second set, she had the chance to take the lead. Unfortunately, she was undone by two straight double faults followed by a bad forehand mistake. Linette saw the opening, jumped through it, and quickly closed out the match.
Pure joy on her face 🥲@MagdaLinette • @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/SqmrazAjnf— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2023
No matter how this ends, her performance at the Aussie Open marks the greatest Grand Slam (or WTA 1000) result of her career, and by quite a margin. Her best finish in Melbourne before this had been a third-round exit at the 2018 tournament. She also finished in the third round at the French Open and Wimbledon in 2022, but has never been past that point — until this week, that is.
Now she's a few steps away from history. She's beaten four straight seeded players to get to the semifinals, and now she just has to beat two more to hold that trophy high.
What to watch on Day 11
We started with 32 total singles matches on Day 1. Now with Day 11 on the horizon, that number has been whittled down to two. The two women's semifinal matches will be played on Day 11, with the two men's semifinal matches taking place on Day 12. Here's who we'll see tomorrow.
No. 22 Elena Rybakina vs. No. 24 Victoria Azarenka
No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Magda Linette