by Kevin Craig
Novak Djokovic was able to beat Roger Federer in the semifinals at the Australian Open on Thursday, 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, setting up a match-up in the final with either Andy Murray or Milos Raonic. Djokovic’s level was extraordinarily high for the first two sets, but Federer didn’t go down without a fight as he clawed out a set to make things interesting. In the end, Djokovic was able to take the lead in their head-to-head battles at 23-22, and make it to his 17th consecutive final.
It’s difficult to put into words how well Djokovic played in the first two sets. Djokovic was playing arguably the best tennis a human possibly could, as he was ripping winners from anywhere on the court and acting like a wall behind the baseline, leaving the 17-time grand slam champion frustrated and having no clue what to do.
Djokovic quickly broke Federer in his first service game of the match and raced out to a 3-0 lead in what appeared to be the blink of an eye. Federer did get a hold at love in his second service game, but that is all Djokovic would allow him to have has he turned the knob back up and won three straight games to close out the 22-minute set with a double break advantage. The second set was more of the same as Djokovic again raced out to a quick lead, finding himself up 4-1 in a very short period of time. Djokovic gave Federer more trouble in his last service game of the set before he was able to hold, possibly foreshadowing what he was about to do in the third set. Nevertheless, Djokovic held at love and once again closed out the set with a double break lead.
The third set was very tight throughout as Federer’s level began to rise and Djokovic’s began to drop slightly. Federer was the one who began hitting winners from almost anywhere on the court and playing tremendous defense as Djokovic would drag him from corner to corner. After four easy holds to get the set to 2-2, Djokovic had a look at a break point before Federer would save it and wind up getting the hold. In the next game, though, Federer and Djokovic fought for over 10 minutes in a 16 point game that saw Federer have four break points. As the game was being played, it almost felt as if Federer had to get that break if he wanted to prolong the match at all, or else Djokovic would relax and get the break in the next game and cruise to the win. The former is what happened, though, as Federer got the break on his fourth chance and went on to close out the set.
The match continued to be tight into the fourth set, as neither player gave the other any opportunities on their serve. Neither returner was able to get past 30, until Federer served at 3-4 and got down 30-40. Djokovic, disappointed with the fact he let the match get to this point and aware what Federer could do if the match was taken to a fifth set, had no issue converting the only break point of the set to go up 5-3, and served out the match at love to book his place in the final.
Djokovic put on an absolute masterclass display of tennis in the first two sets as he won both in an under an hour combined, losing only three games and making six unforced errors along the way. Many viewers were even being reminded of the 2008 French Open final when Rafael Nadal defeated Federer in the final, only losing four games in three sets. Djokovic stated himself that the “first two sets have been probably the best two sets [he’s] played against [Federer] overall.” All Federer could rely on was the hope that Djokovic’s level would drop at some point, and it did, allowing the Suisse to give the fans some of what they wanted as he took the match to a fourth set and competed until the last point. In the end, Djokovic was too good and proved again why he is the No. 1 player in the world.
Djokovic awaits his opponent in the final as Murray and Raonic will battle on Friday night in Melbourne. Both Murray and Raonic earned their spots in the semifinals with four set wins, Murray beating David Ferrer 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3, and Raonic defeating Gael Monfils 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Murray is hoping to make his fifth appearance in the final of the Australian Open and create a repeat of last year’s final, while Raonic is in his second grand slam semifinal after making it to the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014 and looks to make his first final at a slam.