Reigning champion Novak Djokovic on Thursday (January 30) eased past Swiss great Roger Federer for the 27th time to compete for his 8th Australian Open title in Melbourne.
The Serb defeated his injury-hit rival 7-6(1) 6-4 6-3 in straight sets at the Rod Laver Arena.
“It could have definitely gone a different way. He started off really well, I was pretty nervous at the beginning. Respect to Roger for coming out tonight, he was obviously hurt and wasn’t close to his best in terms of movement,” said the defending champion after being informed about his Swiss counterparts lower-back injury.
Djokovic now awaits to face either Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev, who will battle it out on Friday (January 31) in the second semi-final at Melbourne Park, in Sunday’s showdown.
Of the seven Melbourne finals Djokovic has made, he has won them all.
If any extra motivation was needed, winning on Sunday will see the Serb reclaim the number one ranking after Rafael Nadal was sent packing in the last eight.
Explaining what went wrong in the first hour, Djokovic said, “It was not the right mindset from me at the beginning of the match, I was looking at how he was moving rather than executing my shots. I managed to dig my way back and it was very important to win that first set.”
After 50 enthralling battles with Roger Federer over 14 years, it seems like the world number two has now discovered the winning formula.
“I hope I made him (Federer) 20 percent better player than what he did to me in my career. He’s one of my two biggest rivals. I’ve played most of the matches against Rafa and Roger in Grand Slams. They’ve made a significant difference in my mind for me to understand my own game and how to win against them,” he said.
“I remember when I won my first Grand Slam here in 2008 after that it was three very tough years for me because every time I reached a final I would lose to one of these two guys. It took a lot of thinking, belief and work to perfect my game and astonish those guys in the biggest stage,” he added.
It was the fourth time Djokovic had beaten Federer at the semi-final stage in Melbourne after doing the same in 2008, 2011 and 2016.
Federer, the 2018 champion, came into the match carrying a groin injury that he picked up in his five-set, come-from-behind quarter-final win against Tennys Sandgren.
He was seen around Melbourne Park before the match with tape on his upper right leg and there were even rumours that he might pull out. But that is not in the 38-year-old’s nature — he has only ever given up four walkovers in his long career — and the show was on.