Novak Djokovic Downs Roger Federer in 2011 Australian Open Semifinal
In three hours, No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia repeated his 2008 feat when he dispatched No. 2 seed Roger Federer in straight sets, 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-4.
It was the defending champion's back-to-back loss to the Serbian at the Grand Slam level.
Despite the three-setter, it was a high-quality performance from both. The meager eight-point difference in total points won explains how closely the match was played.
Federer assessed, "It was a match played at a very high intensity for a long period of time...it was intense. We had long, tough rallies and played at a very high speed and everything."
Occasionally rattled by Djokovic's aggressive base-line rallies and shot-making from both wings, Federer tried to mix up his shots with drop volleys, which flat-footed the Serb on a couple of occasions.
Throughout the match, it was, in Federer's assessment, "a battle for almost who can play more aggressive. Tonight he was better and won the big points."
If Djokovic's forehand was on song, Federer had twice as many errors from the back-hand wing.
Djokovic's regained serve also out-matched Federer (69-60 percent). His focus and intensity gave an impression of a rebirth of the 2007-08 Djokovic.
As I predicted three days ago, we will have our first Grand Slam final without both Federer and Rafael Nadal since the Australian Open 2008 final, which Djokovic won by beating Federer in the semifinal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.
Now, we have it.
The Serbian, nicknamed Joker for his on-court theatrics, was all business from the start, though both players looked nervy in the first few games.
Although Federer had a couple of break points in the first set, he could not convert any. In the tiebreaker, Djokovic stole three points from Federer to run away with the first set, which sketched the outcome of the match.
On a side note, the Serb has never lost a match to the Swiss after winning the first set.
At the beginning of the second set, Djokovic broke Federer in the third game by relentlessly attacking Federer's backhand in the corner and screaming a loud come on.
Aggravated by the loss of the first set and a breakdown, the Swiss complained with the umpire either about Djokovic's box or some disruptive fans.
The Swiss came back strongly to win four games in a row to take a 5-2 lead, but that was not enough to win the second set; determined, Djokovic replied with five straight games won by mostly outplaying Federer in forehand battle to win the set, 7-5.
The 13-minute long, second game of the third set was the highlight of the aggressive match, in which Djokovic overcame three break points and five deuces to hold, after long baseline rallies with spectacular shot-making
At this point, the Swiss had eight more backhand errors than the Serb (20-12).
In the third set, Djokovic broke early in the third game to lead 2-1. Although he was down 0-30 in the next game, he held to maintain the lead at 3-1.
Four games later (4-4), Federer fought back to break as Djokovic made a couple of errors. In the ninth game, Djokovic answered back by earning three break points.
Federer was broken one last time as he shanked his backhand into the net.
At this point, Federer's backhand errors stood at 26 to Djokovic's 13.
Federer made one last attempt to hang on, forcing Djokovic to deuce after two match points. On the third and final attempt, the Serb served big and Federer shanked forehand into the net.
With the win, Djokovic has advanced to his fourth major final to face the winner of David Ferrer and Andy Murray, who he leads in head to head, 5-4 and 4-3, respectively.
"Novak was the better player tonight. You got to accept that and move on from here," praised Federer.
When asked who would win the title, Federer did not clearly predict: "I'm sure it's going to be an exciting final. I mean, obviously if Novak plays at this level, he's got his chances; if Murray continues playing at his level he'll have his chances too. Ferrer played a fantastic match yesterday."
After having watched tonight's mind-boggling performance, I predict that the red hot Serb's aggressive play will win him a second Grand Slam on Sunday, regardless of who he faces.
Djokovic feels the Rod Laver arena is his home turf and he simply cannot lose. If he wins, expect to see some impersonations from the Serb.
Ranking points update of the top three:
Djokovic: 7,885 (if he wins the title)
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