In the wee hours of the morning Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will contest the first Australian Open men’s semifinal. The meeting between the two top names in tennis is their 20th edition, and it’s Federer who has the decisive lead 13-6. Federer also won their last three meetings surrendering just one single set.
However, in their most recent Grand Slam showdown it was Djokovic saving two match points in a 5-set thriller at the US Open in the semifinals.
This time around coming into the match Djokovic is a far better player of the two, and it’s a different situation.
“The US Open was a close match,” Federer said. “I think I had two match points. I’m not sure how many I had. Maybe three. I guess I should have won really. I mean, I was playing good enough to win. But I was a bit confused mentally maybe, you know, because we played the second session, it was a back to back with the was Super Saturday, which I’m not a huge fan of. Maybe I just felt like I have to get out of this match as quick as I could to save energy to play Rafa the next day. I think it ended up hurting me losing the match at the end. It was unfortunate. Novak and myself both played a good match. In the end, it was a shot here and there. He whacked those forehands in the corners the way he had to to get around, turn the match around.”
At the start of the event I picked Federer to beat Djokovic at this very stage. But that was then, this is now.
Federer’s back in the semifinals (hit 8th Australian Open I read) but en route this year he escaped Gilles Simon, sleepwalked through multiple breaks against Xavier Malisse, dropped a set to Tommy Robredo before essentially given a pass by his friend Stan Wawrinka.
By contrast, Djokovic has sliced through the field losing just a single set, that 10-8 in a tiebreak to Ivan Dodig. In his last two matches he belted Nicolas Almagro and Tomas Berdych. Djokovic also seems to have his faulty serve under control.
Said Djokovic of playing Roger, “I always try to win against him. No question about that. I’ve won against him in different occasions, mostly on the hardcourts. So as I said, this is the chance that I can use. But as I said, very close matches. The winner of the matches, you know, gets away with couple points here and there. On this level, this is what happens. All that said, I have to stick my pick of Federer, however I have been more impressed by the game of focus of Djokovic.”
Federer has looked shaky but in a double revenge match – Djokovic beat him at the US Open and at the Australian Open in this round in 2008 – so I have to think Federer will bring his best stuff tonight.
For me, the key will be the serve. Because both players are so efficient off the ground, the two serves will end up as the difference. As I said, Novak’s been serving great – only broken four times – while Federer has had some bad patches. And I think tonight the Swiss will again donate a few breaks.
But in the end I like Federer in five. With Nadal out the importance of the match increases that much more and I just think Federer still handles these situations better than just about anybody else.
As for the two women’s semifinals. Both are really close match to call. Li Na and Caroline Wozniacki are about to take the court and I give Wozniacki the slight edge on paper. I also favor Clijsters but I’m going to reverse course and pick two upsets, Li Na and Zvonareva!
Wozniacki is just far too defensive and I think Clisters has looked just a little wobbly. And she’s never won in Melbourne before. Plus, Vera’s due. She’s been quick around the court, hitting with power and keeping her emotions in check.
Looking ahead to tomorrow night, like most of us picked Andy Murray will meet a Spaniard in the semifinals, just not the Spaniard we thought. I’ll have more tomorrow but I liked Murray over Nadal so there’s no reason not to pick him to beat Ferrer. It’s still a tough match, though.
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Not Before:1:30 PM
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v. Na Li (CHN)
Kim Clijsters (BEL) v. Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Rod Laver Arena 7:30 PM Start Time
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Roger Federer (SUI)
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