In their 45th meeting, the No. 1 seed vanquished No. 3 Roger Federer in four sets. The victory breaks the rivals' career stalemate—they entered the match having split their showdowns with 22 wins apiece—and gives the Serbian star a chance at his fifth Australian Open title in six years.
An outstanding performance against his nemesis solidifies Djokovic as the favorite in his fifth consecutive Grand Slam final. He'll go for career title No. 11 against Andy Murray or Milos Raonic, who compete early Friday morning for the other men's final bid. Anyone not up at 3:30 a.m. ET to watch the semifinal draw can catch a replay later in the day.
Replay Info for Friday’s Draw (Day 12, Semifinals)
Watch: ESPN (U.S. only)
Saturday Replay Coverage: Tennis Channel from 6 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET to 3 a.m. ET; ESPN2 from 2 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET
Full Schedule: AusOpen.com
Novak Djokovic Defeats Roger Federer
Once the men's draw hit the press, tennis fans already fast-forwarded to a Djokovic-Federer semifinal. Despite their wide gaps in age and style, the two rivals constantly create classic symphonies on the court in an evenly matched feud.
This time, however, Djokovic dominated the opening two sets. As noted by the New York Times' Christopher Clarey, the 28-year-old picked up all but three games and needed under an hour to gain a decisive edge:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
6-1, 6-2 Djokovic 54 minutes: the most lopsided first two sets in their long rivalry1/28/2016, 9:35:08 AM
Clarey's New York Times colleague Ben Rothenberg highlighted the rarity of anyone manhandling Federer on a Grand Slam stage:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
Djokovic 6-1, 6-2. 352 Slam matches, only SECOND time (Cx) Federer won 3 or fewer games in first two sets (2001 US Agassi). #AusOpen1/28/2016, 9:39:07 AM
According to Michael Beattie of the Australian Open's official website, Djokovic committed just six unforced errors during those opening sets, finishing with an efficient 20 compared to Federer's 51. After the match, per Beattie, Djokovic couldn't recall playing a better stretch of tennis against his foe during their decade-long rivalry.
“I think against Roger, these first two sets have been probably the best two sets I've played against him overall I think throughout my career,” Djokovic said. “I've had some moments against him in sets where I've played on a high level, but this was, yeah, I think a different level than from before.”
Yet the 34-year-old veteran avoided a quick sweep by seizing the third set. The fourth set more closely resembled their typical encounters; the legends split the opening six games, providing hope of an epic rally.
While the 18-time Grand Slam champion didn't go down easily, he eventually faded during an electric final set. Now he'll watch Djokovic attempt to lessen the gap on his record title tally.
Although Federer hasn't won a major since 2012's Wimbledon, the window cracked open for a return to glory. As he showcased peak form in Australia, his biggest challenger weathered a storm to the semifinals.
Djokovic hadn't displayed this stellar play throughout the tournament. After needing tiebreakers to clinch third sets in the second and third rounds, he made 100 unforced errors during a fourth-round victory over Gilles Simon, surviving an ugly five sets lasting five hours and 32 minutes.
Two impressive triumphs have erased any worries about the defending champion, at least in the mind of SI.com's Jon Wertheim:
Though he spent too much time on the court in the middle rounds, the short night matches in the quarterfinals (against Kei Nishikori) and against Federer on Thursday night ought to help preserve battery power. (Plus he now has two days off before the final.) His confidence is swollen, as it ought to be. This match doubled as a mic-drop statement. All of which is to say: Djokovic has put himself in an ideal position to win the title yet again.
At this point, it'd be weird watching a men's final without Djokovic. He has appeared in 16 of the last 21 Grand Slam finals, all but one against Federer (three), Murray (five) or Rafael Nadal (seven). He has yet to lose a finale at Melbourne, and it doesn't look like that will change this weekend.
All stats obtained from AusOpen.com.