Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic Australian Open Preview

Posted on January 24, 2008

Today marks Federer and Djokovic’s third Grand Slam meeting, sixth straight meeting on hard court…and Djokovic’s 100th match on hard court. Djokovic has yet to drop a set here, but Federer has not conceded a set to Djokovic in their previous two Slam meetings at the 2007 Australian Open and 2007 US Open. At last year’s Australian Open, Federer became the first man since Bjorn Borg at 1980 Roland Garros to win a major without dropping a set.

Federer had a four-match winning streak against his Serbian opponent until AMS Montreal last August, where Djokovic defeated defending champion Federer in the final. The match lasted two hours 13 minutes, and Djokovic won the first set on a tiebreak after Federer had held six set points serving at 6-5.

In contrast, at their last meeting in the final of the US Open, Djokovic held five set points against Federer in the first set and another two in the second but failed to convert.

This is FEDERER’S ninth Australian Open and he has reached the semifinals for the fifth year running. He has won three of his four previous semifinal appearances here, his one loss coming to Marat Safin in the 2005 semifinals. This was also his last loss at a major to anyone other than Rafael Nadal.

This is Federer’s 15th straight appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal, starting with 2004 Wimbledon, and he has a 14-2 win-loss record in Grand Slam semifinals, losing here in 2005 and to Nadal at 2005 Roland Garros.

Federer’s defeat to Nadal at 2005 Roland Garros was his last loss at the semifinal stage of any tournament. Since then, he has won 34 semifinal matches in a row.

By reaching the semifinals, Federer has moved into third place for the longest Australian Open winning streak in the Open Era and should he win today he will equal Ivan Lendl’s record for 20 straight victories here:
Longest Australian Open winning streaks in the Open Era
Player No. of matches Streak duration
Andre Agassi 26 Champion 2000-01, 2003 lost 2004 semifinal*
Ivan Lendl 20 Champion 1989-90, lost 1991 final
Roger Federer 19 Champion 2006-07, 2008 semifinal
*did not play in 2002; ^no tournament in 1986

Federer is now bidding to reach a record 11th consecutive Grand Slam final. He set the record for successive appearances in major finals at last year’s Roland Garros, breaking his tie with Jack Crawford, who reached seven successive Grand Slam finals in 1933-34. Two women have made more successive final appearances at a major in the Open Era – Martina Navratilova (11) and Steffi Graf (13).

Federer is also bidding to become the tenth man to reach 15 Grand Slam finals.

Federer is the oldest of the semifinalists for just the second time in 16 Grand Slam semifinal appearances.

Federer has won a total of 12 majors, placing him equal second on the all-time Grand Slam title leaders list with Roy Emerson and two behind Pete Sampras’s record of 14. He has won eight out of the last 10 majors.

Federer won his third Australian Open title last year and became the first man since Bjorn Borg at 1980 Roland Garros to win a Grand Slam title without dropping a set. Federer won his first title here in 2004 (d. Marat Safin), his second in 2006 (d. Marcos Baghdatis) and third in 2007 (d. Fernando Gonzalez).

Federer is bidding to become just the third man in history to win three consecutive Australian Open titles, after Jack Crawford (1931-33) and Roy Emerson (1963-67).

Of the nine men that have won back-to-back Australian Open titles in the Open Era, Federer is the sixth to advance to the semifinals on his second defence. He would become the third man to advance to the final, after Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl, if he defeats Djokovic today. [For more details see Preview page 4-5.]

Federer and Bjorn Borg are the only two men to record three or more consecutive victories at two Grand Slam events. No man has achieved this at three majors.

Federer is also bidding to become the fifth man to win four or more Australian Open titles after Roy Emerson, who won six in total and Jack Crawford, Ken Rosewall and Andre Agassi, who all collected four.

Federer’s 143-22 win-loss record through the quarterfinals in Grand Slam tournaments is the best among active players (in terms of matches won), and ninth among all players in the Open Era. If he wins today, he would move into joint-eighth place with Mats Wilander, who has a 144-37 record. [For more details, see page 8 of the Preview.]

Federer’s appearance in the last four here ensures a 209th straight week as the world No. 1, when the new rankings are published on Monday. The top ranking was under threat if Federer had failed to reach the semifinals and Rafael Nadal went on to win the title.

Federer’s 4 hour 27 minute victory over Tipsarevic was the fourth-longest match that he has played, and his joint-longest in terms of number of games at 63 (equalling his 2005 semifinal defeat here against Marat Safin). It was also the longest fifth set in number of games that Federer has played.

The top seed has reached the semifinals 23 times in 40 Australian Opens, and on 17 occasions to date has advanced to the final here.

The defending champion has reached the semifinals on 22 occasions here in the Open Era, going in to the final 16 times. (Note: the champion did not return to defend his title on six occasions.)

This is Federer’s first tournament of the year. The last player to win the men’s singles title here having not played a tour or exhibition event in the previous two weeks was Boris Becker in 1996, though he did play a practice match against Pete Sampras as part of the Kooyong event; Andre Agassi in 1995 was the last Australian Open champion to win without playing a single preparatory match.

Federer’s last tournament victory of 2007 at the Tennis Masters Cup tied him for second place with Pete Sampras on the all-time hard court title leaders list with 36 titles. Andre Agassi won 46 hard court titles.

Looking ahead to a potential final against either the unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or No. 2 Rafael Nadal, Federer leads Nadal 8-6 in previous meetings, but has never faced Tsonga.

Federer reached the semifinals of the boys’ singles here in 1998 (l. Andreas Vinciguerra). The same year he won the boys’ singles title at Wimbledon and reached the US Open boys’ singles final.

Federer has been without a coach since splitting from Tony Roche in May 2007. He is here with Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi.

DJOKOVIC is through to his first Australian Open semifinal and so completes a set of Grand Slam semifinal appearances, joining  Roger Federer and David Nalbandian as the only three active players to have reached all four Grand Slam semfinals.

At 20 years 250 days (age on the last day of the tournament), Djokovic is the youngest player in Grand Slam Open Era history to reach the semifinals of all four majors and the 16th player to do so.

Djokovic has reached the semifinals of a fourth consecutive Grand Slam tournament. In the Open Era, only eight men have made appearances in four or more consecutive Grand Slam semifinals, led by today’s opponent Federer, who is making his 15th consecutive semifinals appearance at major today.
Consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances (Open Era)
No. of consecutive
appearances Player
15 Roger Federer (04-08)
8 Ivan Lendl (86-88)
6 Ivan Lendl (83-84)
5 Boris Becker  (90-91)
4 Andre Agassi (99-00)
4 Jim Courier (92-93)
4 John McEnroe (83-84)
4 Rod Laver (1969)
4 Tony Roche (1969)

Djokovic, at 20 years, 250 days (age on the last day of the tournament), is bidding to become the sixth-youngest finalist here. Three men younger than Djokovic have gone on to win the Australian Open title.

Youngest Australian Open finalists (Open Era)
Year Player  Age* Result in final
1983 Mats Wilander 19 years, 111 days Champion
1985 Stefan Edberg 19 years, 323 days Champion
1984 Mats Wilander 20 years, 109 days Champion
1997 Carlos Moya 20 years, 152 days Runner-up
2006 Marcos Baghdatis 20 years, 226 days Runner-up
2008??? Novak Djokovic??? 20 years, 250 days??? ???

This is the first time that Djokovic has advanced to a Grand Slam semifinal without dropping a set. He and Rafael Nadal were the only players to reach the last four here who have not yet dropped a set, marking the first time since 2004 Wimbledon (Sebastien Grosjean and Andy Roddick) that two players have reached the last four with five straight-sets victories.

Djokovic is bidding to become the 9th man to reach the Australian Open final in the Open Era without dropping a set. Last year Roger Federer became the 8th man to do so, although four men achieved this before the Australian Open became a 128 draw and therefore only had to win a maximum of five matches to reach the final. Federer went on to become the first man to win a Grand Slam title without dropping a set since Bjorn Borg at 1980 Roland Garros.

In reaching the semifinals, Djokovic and Nadal have conceded just 39 games each. Of those men playing five complete best-of-five matches at the Australian Open, only three have conceded less en route to the semifinals – Andre Agassi (36 – 1995), Pat Cash (37 – 1988) and Michael Chang (37 – 1996). Chang holds the record for fewest games conceded in advancing to the Australian Open final (48 in 1996).

Djokovic is the only Serbian man to appear in the semifinals of all four Slams, and also just the second Serbian man to reach the Australian Open semifinals in the Open Era after Slobodan Zivojinovic in 1985, when the tournament was still played on grass at Kooyong. At the 2007 US Open, Djokovic became the first Serbian man to reach a Grand Slam final.

This is the second time in Open Era history, after 2007 Roland Garros, that three Serbian players reached the semifinals of a major. Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic reached the last four once again, and Djokovic is bidding to join Ivanovic in the 2008 Australian Open final to mark the first time in history that two Serbians have featured in the final at the same Grand Slam.

If Djokovic advances to the final, he will have either a first-time meeting with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, or a ninth with Rafael Nadal, whom he trails 2-6 in previous meetings.

Djokovic is unbeaten so far in 2008. Through his quarterfinal victory here, he is on a nine-match winning streak on hard court. Prior to arriving in Melbourne, Djokovic teamed up with Jelena Jankovic to represent Serbia in the 2008 Hopman Cup, winning all four of his singles matches. Serbia lost to USA 2-1 in the final.

In 2007, Djokovic became the seventh different player under 21 years old in the last 25 years to capture at least five ATP titles in a season [see table overleaf].

Under-21 season title leaders in last 25 years (min. 5 titles)
Player Titles (Year) Age
Rafael Nadal 11 (2005) 19
Mats Wilander 9 (1983) 19
Marat Safin 7 (2000) 20
Lleyton Hewitt 6 (2001) 20
Andre Agassi 6 (1988) 18
Boris Becker 6 (1986) 19
Novak Djokovic 5 (2007) 20
Rafael Nadal 5 (2006) 20

Djokovic’s five titles included his first two Masters Series titles at AMS Miami and AMS Montreal. He became the 18th teenager since the inception of the ATP Rankings in 1973 to enter the Top 10 and achieved a career-high ranking of No. 3 on 9 July 2007. He has been ranked No. 3 (with the exception of one week) since that date.

On the way to his second AMS title at Montreal, Djokovic defeated the top three players in the world in successive rounds from the quarterfinals onwards. This was the first time a player had achieved this since Boris Becker at 1994 Stockholm, though subsequently David Nalbandian repeated this feat at 2007 AMS Madrid. Five of Djokovic’s seven titles have been won on hard court.

Djokovic played the boys’ singles here in 2004 as a 16-year-old, advancing to the semifinals (l. Josselin Ouanna)

Djokovic travels to the Grand Slams with a support base that includes his parents Srdjan and Dijana, brothers Djordje (age 13) and Marko (age 16 and who played the junior tournament here this week), coach Marian Vajda, manager Allon Khakshouri and his physical trainer, Miljan Amanovic. (ITF Media)