Alexander Zverev
The blokes down under delivered a doozy for the semifinals this year, as (1) Novak Djokovic continues his recent rivalry with (4) Jannik Sinner, and (3) Daniil Medvedev looks to entertain against resurgent (6) Alexander Zverev.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (4) Jannik Sinner

2023’s ending stanza between these two was merely foreshadowing for 2024.

No. 4 seed Jannik Sinner and No. 1 Novak Djokovic faced off four times in two weeks during the Nitto ATP Finals and the Davis Cup in late November. Sinner won two singles matches and a doubles match, getting the better of Novak except when it counted the most in the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals.

That was Sinner’s true coming out party. Everyone knew he was on the cusp of making some real noise. Sweeping the 24-time major winner aside three times in two weeks made it official.

Now they’ll resume the festivities on Djokovic’s home turf as Novak goes for his 11th Australian Open title.

Many are pegging Sinner as the favorite, which is mind-boggling considering Djokovic is all but a lock to win any Grand Slam he enters.

Djokovic usually wins Grand Slams the same way he wins individual matches: by constricting his prey.

It’s a familiar pattern that goes like this:

Lose a set, appear to be on the ropes, win the match.

Repeat until the tournament has been won.

It happens in almost all of his Grand Slams. He doesn’t really steamroll through a draw. He slowly constricts around it. Just like he slowly constricts an opponent in a match.

In the course of a two-week tournament, he constricts the entire event, sort of bending it to his will. He plays himself into form so that he peaks in the final rounds, and all stories eventually become about his insane accomplishments.

Sometimes it even seems like he loses sets just to feel the experience of being in a struggle. The pressure is something he looks for. On some level he prefers it.

And so we arrive in the semis, when Djokovic begins to squeeze and tighten his grip. His mind and his game are totally locked in.

But he’s encountering the most feared opponent in the game today.

Jannik Sinner has yet to lose a single set in this year’s Australian Open. His quality of play has been peerless in the last two months.

Djokovic leads series 4-2, but again, those two losses came in November, so they’re fresh.

They both know each other well, and will take the court with carefully prepared gameplans.

Importantly, Sinner won’t be intimidated by Novak. His recent head-to-head victories assure that. The only thing that might trip up his nerves is the weight of the moment. This is only his second Grand Slam semifinal, after finally reaching one at Wimbledon 2023.

And remember, the one match he did lose to Novak at the end of the 2023 was the championship match of the Nitto ATP Tour Finals. The big stage tripped him up a little bit.

For Djokovic, this will be his 47th Grand Slam semifinal. He has won 36 of them, including 22 of the last 23. Those are ludicrous stats.

Sinner is exactly the kind of opponent that can take Novak down, though. Long and tall, easy power, smart, precise, and extremely patient. Novak usually wins battles of patience, but Sinner can outclass him there. Rarely does Sinner go for outright winners too early or out of anxiety or exasperation. He’ll settle in and work a point until the right opportunity presents itself. That’s winning tennis. And he usually lands his punches when he goes for them.

Sinner has the goods to get it done, but it won’t be easy. Expect a five set thriller.

Winner: Jannik Sinner

(3) Daniil Medvedev vs. (6) Alexander Zverev

During the on-court interview after sixth-seed Alexander Zverev’s 6-1 6-3 6-7(2) 6-4 quarterfinal win over superstar (2) Carlos Alcaraz, Jim Courier brought up Zverev’s familiarity with his next opponent, third-seeded Daniil Medvedev.

“He’s been kicking my ass a lot over the last year or so,” Zverev laughed aloud. “But maybe this will be it. Maybe this will be the place.”

Zverev’s resurgence to the top of the game has been a treat for tennis. He was about to become No. 1 in the world when he tore three ligaments in his ankle in the 2022 French Open. He was sidelined for a year while he had surgery and committed all his energy to rehab.

Since returning, his results have steadily improved from week-to-week, and now he’s back to No. 6 in the world and climbing.

He is big and strong. His game matches his physique. His backhand is not to be trifled with.

He’s a special talent who ceded the “changing of the guard” narrative to the likes of Alcaraz, Sinner, and Rune only because of his unplanned absence. Had he not been injured, the results in majors might have been quite different the last two years.

Medvedev leads the head-to-head series 11-7, so he knows how to stifle Zverev.

But all of their meetings have been best two-out-of-threes. This will be their first time to play three-out-of-five, and it’s obviously their first clash in a Slam.

Medvedev will be more relaxed. He’s a regular at these later stages of Slams, so don’t expect any butterflies. Zverev has been to six Slam semis himself, but he faces nerves of a different sort.

First of all, he has yet to win a major, so that’s still gnawing at him. The other piece is that he still feels like he’s on the comeback trail.

In reality, he’s already back. And he’s different. Two years of rehab have produced a new version of Zverev. One who is intensely focused and inspired to reclaim what was taken from him: success at the upper echelons of the game. He’s less swashbuckler now and more terminator.

He’s had his struggles in this tournament, to be sure. He had to gut out two fifth-set tiebreaks, one against a qualifier named Lukas Klein. But he got through them and that’s what matters. Taking down wunderkind Carlos Alcaraz in fairly dominant fashion is a great way to juice the confidence meter, though.

Medvedev had to survive a couple of five-setters of his own, including his last match against (9) Hubert Hurkacz.

He’s the most engaging player on tour, and he has been candid this year about his desire to improve his relationship with the crowd, which can run hot and cold. His “give a damn” meter is permanently set to zero, and he’s given the business to many crowds over the years. But he appears to be maturing, deciding it’s better (and more fun) to have them like you than otherwise.

Which is why we’ve seen him giving long-winded interviews where he explains his court positioning and anything else for as long as they’ll let him hang around and talk about it.

Expect big tennis from Zverev and crafty tennis from Medvedev. The first set will be pivotal, as the frontrunner in this one will probably find a way to hold on.

Winner: Alexander Zverev