World no. 2 and the seven-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is one victory away from lifting the eighth crown at Melbourne Park, defeating Roger Federer 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes. It was the 50th ATP Tour match between two great rivals who have shared 13 Australian Open titles since 2004, with Novak scoring the 27th triumph in the clash where he was a huge favorite.
Suffering a groin injury in that epic match with Tennys Sandgren two days ago, the Swiss star gave his best to stand on level terms with a mighty opponent, hitting more winners than Novak and more unforced errors, unable to find a way of staying in the rallies.
Thus, Novak advanced to his 26th Major final, moving one away from Rafael Nadal and becoming the first player in the Open era with eight title matches at two different tournaments, competing for the trophy eight times in New York as well.
Roger defeated Novak in the semi-final at Wimbledon in 2012, and that is still his last Major victory over the Serb, who scored six straight victories over the Swiss on the biggest scene. Against all the odds, Roger kicked off the action with a 4-1, 40-0 advantage, having a great chance of breaking Djokovic's serve thrice in a row before Novak pulled that game and gathered momentum that led him towards a comeback and the opening set.
Serving at 73%, the Serb played better on both the first and second serve, fending off five out of seven break chances and stealing Roger's serve four times from 11 opportunities to control the scoreboard and bring victory home in style.
In sets two and three, Djokovic lost 12 points on serve in total, never facing a break point and challenging Roger to repeat the same to stay in contention, something the Swiss couldn't produce. Eager to stay aggressive, Roger hit 26 winners and 19 unforced errors in the opener, finding the rhythm on the return for back-to-back breaks and a massive 4-1, 40-0 lead.
Federer netted an easy forehand in the opening game to offer Novak two break chances, fending them off with two winners and holding after the fourth deuce with a forehand crosscourt winner. An incredible backhand down the line winner secured a break at 15 for the Swiss in the second game, making the best start and hoping to cement the lead in the next one.
Still, Djokovic pulled the break back after forcing Federer's error, opening a 40-15 advantage on serve and looking good to level the score at 2-2. Instead of that, Roger stayed in the game and converted the third break chance when the Serb netted a backhand, firing two winners at 30-30 in the fifth game to open a 4-1 lead.
Facing three break points in the sixth game, Djokovic placed two service winners before Roger wasted the third with a loose forehand, allowing the rival to bring the game home and reduce the deficit to 2-4.
Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in the Australian Open semi-final.
Firing from all cylinders, Federer closed the seventh game in no time with a hold at love, forcing Djokovic to serve for staying in the set, something only a few could have expected before the start of the clash.
Without any rhythm on serve, there was another deuce on Djokovic's serve in the eighth game, with the defending champion holding to grab another game and prolong the set, being two points away from losing it. Serving for the set at 5-3, Federer found himself 40-0 down, with Djokovic breaking back at love after forcing an error from the Swiss to add more drama to the opener.
Novak made a terrific hold to level the score at 5-5, taking three straight games and looking much better on the court now. Losing focus, Roger netted a backhand to offer two break chances to Djokovic, fending off both and landing two winners to move 6-5 ahead.
Novak placed two aces at 30-30 in the 12th game, setting up a tie break that he claimed 7-1 with a return winner for an early lead after an hour and two minutes. With the momentum on his side, Djokovic dominated on serve in set number two, waiting for a chance on the return patiently and securing the break at 5-4 to take two sets to love and grab a massive advantage that we would never waste.
Novak held at 15 in the first game when Roger sprayed a backhand error, continuing where he left in the second part of the opener and hoping for more of the same on the return. Facing two break chances in the second game, the Swiss stayed focused to repel both with booming serves, adding two more to bring the game home and level the score at 1-1.
For the fourth straight service game, Djokovic felt no problems behind the initial shot, holding at love following a forced error from Federer to move 2-1 up before Roger held a service winner to remain on the positive side.
Another powerful hold sent the Serb 3-2 up, barely losing a point in his games so far in the second set and challenging Federer to repeat the same. The Swiss repelled a break chance in the next game, taking the advantage with a service winner and forcing a mistake from Novak to lock the result at 3-3, surviving the first part of the set without bigger troubles.
Standing strong in his games, Novak secured the seventh game with a backhand crosscourt winner, followed by Roger's quick hold to send the pressure back to the other side. Rattling off one comfortable hold after another, Djokovic landed a service winner to gain a 5-4 advantage, with Federer serving to stay in the set after the break.
Determined to avoid another tie break, Djokovic broke with an incredible short forehand crosscourt winner, taking the set 6-4 and looking good to reach another Melbourne final. Novak closed the third set's opening game with the ninth straight service game without giving any chance to Federer, who grabbed the second game for a positive start as well.
Producing deep and precise shots from both wings, the Serb secured another advantage with a perfectly tailored serve, playing against no break chances since the sixth game of the opening set. Ready to fight until the end, Roger blasted some strong serves to pass the fourth game without any troubles, leveling the score at 2-2 and hoping for at least some chance on the return.
Instead of that, Djokovic landed another ace to gain a 3-2 lead, defending both the first and the second serve nicely to keep Roger miles away from break opportunities. The Swiss netted a backhand in the next game to waste a game point, facing another deuce and then a break chance when Novak forced an error from him.
The Serb landed a forehand crosscourt winner right down to the line, taking a 4-2 lead and almost emerging at the top with two sets and a break up. Federer opened the next game with a forehand winner, seizing the second point with a volley winner for a much-needed return chance that he had to seize to remain in touch.
Still, he squandered his opportunities, allowing Novak to bring the game home with a perfect backhand down the line that pushed him a game away from the eighth Australian Open final. Serving for staying in the match, Federer held at 30 to reduce the deficit to 5-3 before Djokovic held in the next game to deliver the 27th victory over Roger and set the clash against Dominic Thiem.