World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is through to his sixth Australian Open final after producing a masterful display to defeat Roger Federer 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Thursday night in Melbourne.
The Serb will face the winner of Friday night’s semi-final between Andy Murray and Milos Raonic as he bids to win his 11th Grand Slam championship. Djokovic has won the title at Melbourne Park in four of the past five years, with that reign only interrupted by Stan Wawrinka in 2014.
“I played unbelievable in the first two sets,” Djokovic told Jim Courier in the on-court interview. “It was necessary against Roger, who was playing at a very high level during this tournament, only dropping one set. I knew he would be aggressive.
“I came out with the right intensity and executed everything perfectly. The two-set lead was comforting, but it was a battle in the end. At the end of the day, it’s important that your convictions are stronger than your doubts.”
Federer tried to halt Djokovic’s momentum at the start of the second set, saving a break point to hold serve with a roar. But Djokovic didn’t flinch. In Federer’s following service game, the Serb broke to love and then a break to 15 in the fifth game all but sealed a two-set lead.
Having committed an astounding 100 unforced errors in a five-set tussle with Gilles Simon in the fourth round, Djokovic made just six errors in the first two sets against Federer, compared to 22 from the Swiss. In a show of dominance, Djokovic won almost twice as many points as Federer (52 to 27) and did not face a break point.
But 17-time Grand Slam champions do not go away quietly. Federer saved a break point in the fifth game before going on the attack in Djokovic’s service game. With the majority of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena urging him on, the Swiss was thwarted on his first four break points of the match, but not on his fifth.
Federer engineered the opportunity by belying his 34 years to chase down a near-impossible get and dinking a forehand winner past Djokovic. He then converted by attacking Djokovic’s backhand corner with a rifled forehand. A nervy service hold in the ninth game saw him claw his way back into the match. Federer improved behind his second serve, winning seven of eight points, and hit 16 winners to just six from Djokovic.
The match got delayed at the end of the third set as the roof was closed due to a forecast of imminent rain. Djokovic kept his nose in front serving first at the resumption and the pressure ultimately told for Federer in the eighth game. At 15/30, the Swiss produced one of the points of the tournament as he chased down a Djokovic lob, then a smash, then a short volley to find the line with a remarkable backhand pass. But it would be the last point he won in the contest.
“He definitely maybe dropped his level of play just ever so slightly [in the third set],” said Federer.
“But that’s all it takes. It’s not easy to keep playing the way he was playing. You can’t read all the serves all the time. I started to get a few more free points. I started to get more opportunities on his service games, as well.