Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray Will Determine Djokovic's Chief Rival in 2013

Stephen Fenech@Fenech2491Correspondent IJanuary 23, 2013

Who will Djokovic's chief rival be in 2013?
Who will Djokovic's chief rival be in 2013?Michael Dodge/Getty Images

With Roger Federer and Andy Murray scheduled to meet in the Australian Open semifinals, No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic will watch on with interest for a couple of reasons. 

First, Djokovic is in the semifinals and will face off against David Ferrer, who is the top-ranked Spanish player in Rafael Nadal's absence. 

Djokovic is the heavy favorite against Ferrer, as the Serb is 9-5 overall against the Spaniard. Delving deeper, Djokovic beat Ferrer in straight sets at last year's Australian Open and surrendered only one set when the two faced off at last year's U.S Open. 

Conjuring up a way in which Ferrer could upset Djokovic is difficult, as the former simply doesn't have the arsenal of weapons to take down the world's best defender. 

On a hard-court, Ferrer won't be able to wear Djokovic down, which will force the Spaniard to be more aggressive from the baseline. Simply put, that isn't Ferrer's game, and he will not be able to upset Novak by employing the strategy. 

A victory over Ferrer would send Djokovic into his third straight Australian Open final, which is also a round in which he has never lost  Down Under. 

Once there, Djokovic will await the winner of Federer/Murray clash, in what promises to be memorable contest. 

While Murray holds a 10-9 head-to-head lead over Federer, the Scot has never beaten the all-time Grand Slam champion in a major. In three Grand Slam finals, Murray only managed to take one set from Federer, although Murray may have vanquished those demons at the London Olympics last summer. 

To beat Murray, Federer will have to serve well. In fact, if Federer serves like he did against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals, then Murray could win the match going away.

At 31 years of age, Federer depends on his serve more than ever. When forced to hit too many second serves, Federer tends to struggle against the world's elite returners, such as Murray and Djokovic. 

For Federer, the plan will be much of the same—serve well and play aggressively while taking advantage of the break points he is able to create. 

Murray will obviously look to do that as well, although the Scot will certainly look to attack Federer's backhand in order to extend points. The longer the rally, the more likely Murray will be to win the point due to his defense and play-style. 

In the past, Fed-Ex has shown great belief against Murray on the biggest stages in tennis. It will be interesting to see how the match plays out after Murray's triumph over Federer at the London Olympics, as this will be their first best-of-five rematch since the gold medal match. 

If Federer beats Murray he will move even farther ahead of him in the rankings. Currently, Federer is ranked 2,265 points ahead of Murray, so in order to make a run at No. 2 in the near future, Murray needs to win this match. 

Since Murray and Federer were both knocked out in the semifinals of last year's Australian Open, the winner of their match will give the victor an advantage in the rankings for the next year. 

Djokovic is 2,655 ranking points ahead of Federer and 4,655 points ahead of Murray, so it would take a strong early season push for Djoker to actually feel someone on his tail. 

Based upon Federer's decision to reduce his schedule to ensure longevity, Murray should be able to overcome Federer in the rankings by the time the 2013 season comes to an end. 

A victory over Federer in the semifinals would further cement Murray as Djokovic's chief rival, while a Murray loss may suggest that Fed-Ex has another special year left in him.