If someone had told Lucas Pouille, after his disappointing outing at the Hopman Cup and dismal first round showing at the Sydney International at the start of the season, that he will play for a place in the final of the Australian Open, I guess he’d have passed it off as a risible prediction.
However, the 24-year-old Frenchman, who’s seeded 28th, has put together strings of determined performances to do just that at Melbourne Park. For a player who had never won a match in five previous appearances at the Australian Open, he has now, more than once, defied the odds to reach his maiden Grand Slam semifinal and will now seek to do even more to become the first Frenchman to play in an Australian Open final since Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 11 years ago.
But Djokovic could bring his impressive run to an abrupt end.
The world number one is seeking a third straight Grand Slam title and a record seventh Australian Open title. He has predictably worked his way to the semifinals and on paper, is the overwhelming favourite to make the final.
Djokovic and Pouille are meeting for the first time. In this battle for a final spot, Djokovic will look the fresher of the two. Having secured back-to-back four-sets victories, he spent only 52 minutes on court in the quarterfinals against Kei Nishikori after the Japanese retired due to a leg injury midway through the second set.
Pouille, meanwhile, spent a whole lot on court in the quarterfinals, fending off the barrage of serves from Milos Raonic and prevailing for the first time over the Canadian in four sets.
“It’s funny that we’re going to play first time against each other,” Djokovic mused. “We’ve practiced many times. We’ve known each other obviously for a long time. Here we go. We’ll see.”
“It’s the semifinals. We both, I’m sure, want to get to the finals. Hopefully we can both be fresh and fit and put on the great show.”
Wakabet is offering a quite generous 1.54 odds for Djokovic to get through to the final in straight sets, and it looks good. The Serb should be too strong for Pouille. The genius of Djokovic’s return game and power from the baseline should cause enough damage for the Frenchman inside three sets.
Also, you could pick Under 30.5 games at 1.94 still on Wakabet. Djokovic boasts the best defense in the game and penetrating that could be unfruitful for Pouille. I fancy this to be a relatively one-sided affair.