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Ricky’s preview and pick for the Australian Open semifinals: Djokovic vs. Paul

In the 2000s, the most notable Australian Open men’s singles trend was unexpected players making it all the way to the final. In more recent years it has been surprising semifinalists–Hyeon Chung, Kyle Edmund, Lucas Pouille, and Aslan Karatsev.

Tommy Paul has kept the story going; now he hopes to invoke memories of Arnaud Clement, Rainer Schuettler, Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Gonzalez, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

In order to do it, Paul will have to take down the man who is the all-time leader in Australian Open titles and who is two wins away from tying the overall record for Grand Slam titles. The bad news for Paul is that Novak Djokovic has looked as dominant in his last two matches as he did en route to his previous nine trophies at Melbourne Park. The 35-year-old destroyed Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in round four before beating Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

While capitalizing on a favorable draw, Paul picked up only two wins in straight sets on his way to a first-ever major semifinal appearance (over Jan-Lennard Struff and Jenson Brooksby). The 25-year-old American also defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in five, Roberto Bautista Agut in four, and Ben Shelton in four.

“I’m really excited; it’s really cool,” Paul said following his victory over Shelton, prior to the Djokovic-Rublev match. “I think it’s even cooler if I do play Novak; that’s probably who I want to play. I mean, I probably have a better chance of winning if it’s Rublev, but to play Novak here in Australia would be awesome.”

Paul is absolutely right; it will be an awesome experience, but he does have a much–much!–worse chance of beat Djokovic. Just as it for pretty much everyone on tour, this is a terrible matchup for Paul. The world No. 35 wins with his consistency, defense, and athleticism, which is not the recipe for success against Djokovic. Shelton, whom Paul knocked off in the quarters, would probably have had a better (but still slim) shot at being competitive because he can take the racket out of an opponent’s hand with huge serves and forehands.

Paul has been playing great dating all the way back to last spring and is fully deserving of being on this stage, but it’s an experience that probably won’t last long on Friday night.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.