Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic: Repeat Or Reversal of Fortunes?

AndersCorrespondent IIIJanuary 25, 2011

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 16: Novak Djokovic (L) of Serbia congratulates Roger Federer of Switzerland at the end of their match during day six of the 2010 Shanghai Rolex Masters at the Shanghai Qi Zhong Tennis Center on October 16, 2010 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Only two men are through to the semis and they both got through their quarters in compelling fashion. Naturally, I'm talking about Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer

Their rivalry is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, when it is all about Roger and Rafa and whether they'll get to their 23th career meeting in the final of the Aussie Open. 

Meanwhile, the Djoker and the Maestro are set for their 20th match, Federer leading 13-6, 11-5 on hard courts and 4-2 in HC slams. Moreover, the Swiss came out on top four out of five times in 2010, but lost their most important - the US semifinal after failing to convert two match points, Djokovic going big on those points.

Federer has taken his revenge, beating him three times in the fall including a stinging 6-1, 6-4 at WTF in London after which an awed an impressed Djokovic said that Federer was playing the best tennis of the year and the balls 'kind of listened to him'.

Nevertheless, given that the Djoker won their last slam meeting, you might say that both players are looking to turn the tables. 

Who's the favourite going in? 

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The case for Djokovic

The Serb is arguably riding on a high and playing the best tennis of his life. He's had a tremendous Fall, reaching the US Open final, winning the Davis Cup and playing as well as anyone. He's faced the toughest opponent that any one of the top-four has run into and completely dismissed a reborn Tomas Berdych with a dominant 6-1, 7-6, 6-1 victory in the quarters. 

One might say that's he's playing the best tennis of anyone.

He's beaten the Swiss in Slams twice, a feat not matched by many, and has the belief he can do it again. 

He's arguably the best returner in the game and hit some of the cleanest ground-strokes of both wings. He's consistent and a great defender, yet more than able to hit it big, when he needs to. 

His serve, once a comparative weakness, is clicking and he's been broken only three times in five matches, losing but a set. 

That makes him the more dangerous as he's probably the guy most likely to break you of anyone in the draw. 

Fatigue was once a problem for him, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

Moreover, once the rally gets started, Djokovic is more than capable of matching Federer and putting him under pressure with his heavy, deep and well-placed groundies. 

Finally, as opposed to Murray, Djokovic hasn't got a history of choking and you can be sure he'll make it a fight. He seems ready for his second slam, but it's still a tall order to get there. 

The case for Federer

Four out of five wins out of their last matches point towards Federer. Federer's winning streak and form going into the event, losing but two matches since their US Open meeting, also points to Federer.

Federer's form Down Under has been shaky as best. He's been dominant for a match and a half, then almost upset in the second half of the Simon match, then played an exhibition against Malisse, before going in and out of the match against Robredo, whom he's only lost 2 sets two prior, before he finally found that extra gear in yesterday's beat down of Stan Wawrinka.

Moreover, Federer has historical stats in his favour. Once he's in the semis, he almost always prevails. The problem? Well, two of the four exceptions to that rule since French Open 2004 has been a guy called Novak.

Last year, Federer lost three out of four slams before the final. Until then, you hardly had to watch his early rounds as there was a 90+ percent probability that he would be there on the last Sunday.

Things have changed and the man has gotten older and more beatable in best of five matches. He's concentration can disappear for entire sets as was evident against Djokovic in the US, where he lost set two and four by winning only one and two games respectively.

Federer knows what this history means for both his and Nadal's legacy and is prepared to give it all to come out on top.

All said and done, Federer's main advantage is that the match is ultimately on his racket. As well as Novak is playing and has been playing, he's unlikely to beat a Federer in full flight firing on all cylinders.

The old man's best level is still good enough to beat everyone on tour and he has the ability to disrupt his opponent's game as he robs him of time, rhytm and belief. 

The question is, can he find that level for three sets?

Djokovic knows that he's likely to lose at least a set, where Federer is playing as if he's untouchable. But he also knows, that it's hard, even for one of the best players ever to pick up a racket, to sustain that level for a five-set match.

Finally, he knows that he himself has never been better and has what it takes to take the great man down.


Not sure I dare to say.

Djokovic seems the hottest player in the tournament, yet Federer so often finds a way to raise his level. A lot depends on their respective serves and return games. Can Federer serve as well as he did against Wawrinka, he's almost impossible to beat, but Novak is more capable than any other in the return game department.

All in all, I have to say, I give the slight advantage to the elder statesman against the young contender.

Federer in a tight four-setter, going towards five.