Djokovic Denies Federer To Reach Final
by Kate Flory|
World No. 3 Novak Djokovic produced a sublime display on Thursday evening in Melbourne as he defeated defending champion Roger Federer 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-4 to reach the Australian Open final for the second time.
Federer’s defeat means that Sunday’s final will be the first Grand Slam championship match not to feature either the Swiss or World No. 1 Rafael Nadal since the 2008 Australian Open final, when Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. World No. 5 Andy Murray will face No. 7 David Ferrer in the second semi-final on Friday evening.
The 23-year-old Djokovic is bidding to add to that lone Grand Slam triumph of three years ago, having lost out to Nadal in last year’s US Open final after saving two match points to defeat Federer in a gripping five-set semi-final. The Serbian was also the runner-up in the 2007 US Open title match, losing out to Federer on that occasion.
“Already [being in the] finals is a great result, great achievement,” said Djokovic. “I want to win it again. I believe I can. Hopefully I can pull up the best tennis.
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Neither player was able to engineer a breakthrough in the first set and it was Djokovic who swiftly took control in the tie-break, battering Federer with his relentless hitting from the baseline as he clinched the opener.
Djokovic quickly capitalised on his momentum as he benefitted from a Federer unforced error, one of 44 the Basel native committed in the match, to break and lead 2-1 in the second set. However, the Serb was made to rue errors of his own in the following game as Federer immediately hit back, before raising his level and taking charge of the set as he reeled off three successive games to lead 5-2.
The third-seeded Djokovic was not prepared to give up the set, though, and a forehand winner down the line yielded two break-back points for the Belgrade native in the ninth game. Denied at the first opportunity, he capitalised on his second chance by chasing down an ill-timed drop shot from Federer and hitting a forehand winner. More unforced errors proved costly for Federer in the 11th game as Djokovic then broke to 30 for a 6-5 lead, before closing out the second set on serve.
Federer was denied on three break point chances by clutch serving from Djokovic in the early stages of the third set. The Swiss had a letdown in the following game, committing costly forehand errors as Djokovic assumed a 2-1 lead. There looked to be one more twist in the tale as Federer persevered against more strong serving from Djokovic to break back and level at 4-4. However, if the 15,000-strong crowd thought the comeback was for Federer, Djokovic was quick to set them straight, immediately regaining his lead as Federer netted a backhand before serving out the victory after three hours.
“Overall, it was a great performance,” said Djokovic. “I'm very happy with the way I played. I knew that I had to use my chances. I stayed very calm and focused after losing my serve at 4-3 [in the third set] and managed to re-break and then serve it out really well. It's a great and encouraging fact that I can rely on my serve in the important moments; that gives you a little bit of the relief and advantage.”
Djokovic also defeated Federer in straight sets in the 2008 Australian Open semi-finals, which was the last time Federer lost a Grand Slam match on hard court in straight sets. The right-hander, who led his country to victory in the Davis Cup at the close of 2010, is looking to become the 13th man in the Open Era to win multiple Australian Open titles.
“To be able to have [the Davis Cup] in the back of your mind is a big advantage coming into the season,” added Djokovic. “I had that motivation and confidence from the big success that we had and playing really well. So I just continued on. I knew that these two weeks are the most important. This is where I want to play my best tennis and I was setting up my form exactly for this tournament. Paid off.”
Defeat for Federer brought to an end his 15-match winning streak, which had seen him win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the close of 2010 and open the 2011 ATP World Tour season with victory at the QatarExxonMobil Open. The 29 year old was bidding to become the second man in history to win five Australian Open titles.
“I thought he played a great match. I didn't think I played bad myself, so it was a match played at a very high intensity for a long period of time,” reflected Federer. “Clearly it's disappointing to lose, but what to do if he plays well on the big points, and potentially maybe I didn't. It was a tough match. I think he managed the conditions well. He deserved to win at the end.”
“I can move on from this with a good mindset, to be honest,"added Federer, who was beaten in straight sets in a major for the first time since the 2008 Roland Garros final (l. to Nadal). "That's what's important right now, that I don't feel like I have physical issues or I'm not playing the right way and whatever. So I'm really positive what's ahead of me.”