It was ugly early if you were a Roger Federer fan. Thursday night in the Australian Open semifinals, the much hyped Federer-Novak Djokovic showdown was as lopsided of a match as you will see on the men’s tour.
In Serena-like fashion, Djokovic, the 5-time champion, stormed out to a 6-1, 6-2 lead in about an hour behind an array of breathtaking shotmaking and plain old excellence.
Djokovic was firing on all cylinders leaving Federer to wonder what, if anything he could do, just to win games. And there simply wasn’t much he could do.
“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. I’m just very, very pleased that I was able to perform the way I did from the very beginning till the end.
“I played flawless tennis for first two sets, no doubt about it.”
Federer kept trying to attack, but would get passed. His serve was getting hammered and Djokovic was unplayable from the baseline and he was cracking his serve. The best Roger could hope for was a few lobs he could smash.
Things, though, began to slowly turn as they often do. Djokovic began to come down to earth in the third as Federer picked up his play, serving with more effectiveness. Then in the 2-2 game (I think) Federer finally got a sniff of a break chance and after 3-4 missed opportunities he eventually broke through. With the crowd on its feet, Federer had his momentum.
He would close out the set 6-3 but with rain apparently on the way, the tournament decided to close the roof delaying the match for a good 10 minutes.
Upon resumption, both guys began a little flat, a little cold. But Djokovic was a notch above and you could sense it was only a matter of time before he’d get back on top and take it. Sure enough with Federer serving 3-4 that was the moment. After winning an exhilarating point, one of the best of the tournament, that would be it for the Swiss. Djokovic broke, then served it out at love to win it 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
“I don’t think I’ve done too much wrong in the third,” Djokovic said. “I was still playing solid, solid tennis. He deserved to win that one. After that, the roof was closed. In the fourth, I served on a very high level. I was very patient. I knew that I’m going to have my opportunity. When it was presented, I managed to utilize it and win in four.”
Down two sets, Federer was just in too big of a hole.
“I’ve seen Novak play this well before,” Federer said. “It’s tough when it’s from the start because obviously you got to try to stop the bleeding at some point, you know. Because he returns very well, like Andre Agassi. He can get one or two sets all of a sudden. Those sets run away very quickly.
“I found a way. Started to play better myself. Made a bit of a match out of it, which was nice,” he added. “But still disappointed obviously that it didn’t go better tonight.”
Djokovic now leads Federer for the first time ever in their head-to-head 23-22. He’s also beaten Roger in the last three Grand Slams and matches Federer reaching his 17th straight tournament final.
And at age 28 he looks virtually unstoppable. Tasked with having to stop him Sunday will be either familiar foe and friend Andy Murray or Milos Raonic. Good luck guys!
“I think he cleaned up his game very nicely,” Federer said. “Whatever was sometimes suspect before is not as wobbly anymore like it used to be. His serve is part of that. He used to have issues with double-faults. I think he serves very accurate, which is important for a serve.
“Today Novak was very, very good. There’s no doubt about it.”
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