MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic beat his rival Roger Federer again in a Grand Slam on Thursday with a 7: 6 (1) 6: 4: 6: 3 win to reach the Australian Open final and continue to set a new course remain eighth title at Melbourne Park.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after his match against Swiss Roger Federer. REUTERS / Edgar Su
It was the 50th act of one of the greatest rivalries in sport, and the chances were strong against Federer, since the Swiss hadn't beaten the Serbs since their 2012 meeting on Wimbledon's grass fields.
Federer's trip to Melbourne Park's blue courses was also anything but smooth when he lost two points ahead of John Millman in the third round and then saved seven match balls to get past the American Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals, struggling with a groin strain.
In contrast, Djokovic had won his last four games at a gallop.
He lost his only set of the Australian Open in the opening game against German Jan-Lennard Struff.
But it was the 20-time Grand Slam winner who quickly climbed out of the blocks on a hot evening to escape the early initiative when Djokovic struggled with his service games.
Federer had taken the lead 4-1 and 40-0 thanks to Djokovic's serve, but the Serb managed to secure all three breakpoints to win his first serve game when his opponent made a number of casual mistakes.
The Swiss, who had to take a long medical break against Sandgren due to a groin problem, was not interested in engaging Djokovic in rallies and scored an incredible 26 winners in the first set.
But the number of his mistakes also increased when Djokovic regained control to get the competition going again, and then led the set with an imperial tie-break.
"It could have been different if he had used these breakpoints," said Djokovic, who beat Rafa Nadal in last year's final to claim his seventh Australian Open title.
“He started very well, I was pretty nervous at the beginning.
"Roger has respect for coming out tonight. He was obviously injured and wasn't at his best or even close to his best in terms of movement."
Both players received medical attention at the end of the first set. Djokovic called the trainer to have his knee massaged.
This seemed to have the desired effect for the second-occupied Serb when he increased his game by one level to transform his fourth breakpoint chance with a forehand winner on the net and get the second set.
Djokovic kept the pressure on the 38-year-old Swiss in the third set and the decisive break came for him in the sixth game with a forehand basic winner to 4: 2 lead.
The 32-year-old, who won 16 Grand Slam titles, celebrated his 27th win over Federer with his first match point when the Swiss struck the goal with a backhand for his 35th casual mistake at night.
While Federer had 46 winners compared to the Serb's 31 winners, he had 17 more casual mistakes.
"I obviously played with nothing to lose," said Federer after the eleventh loss in 17 slam matches with Djokovic.
“I was just trying to make big cuts on the ball, keep rallies to a minimum, make sure I was unprepared and mess everything up as best I could.
"Unfortunately I couldn't serve it. To be honest, I feel like I should have found a way, but I couldn't. "
In the final on Sunday, Djokovic meets the winner of the other semi-final between Alexander Zverev from Germany and the Austrian Dominic Thiem, who won the world's number 1 against Nadal in the quarterfinals.