27
Jan
11

Novak defeats Federer in straight sets to take his place in the 2011 final.

Novak Djokovic claimed his second successive Grand Slam semi-final win over reigning champion Roger Federer to reach the final of the Australian Open. The Serb, who beat Federer at the US Open in September, saw off the 16-time Grand Slam champion 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 6-4 in the first semi-final in Melbourne. And for the first time since Australia in 2008, a Grand Slam final will not feature Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. That was the year that Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win his only major title to date, and then too he had ended Federer’s hopes in the semi-finals.

This latest defeat ends a run of superb form from Federer that followed his five-set loss to Djokovic in New York four months ago, and included victory at the Tour Finals in London and in Doha at the start of this year. Djokovic made a nervous start to Thursday’s match, double-faulting twice as he offered up a break point in the opening game only to gather himself and see it off with a fine forehand. The next 45 minutes saw precious little to choose between either man as both dominated on serve in a high-quality battle that had the packed night-time crowd enthralled on Rod Laver Arena. It was Djokovic who made the initial breakthrough as he took command in the tie-break, grabbing the first mini-break at 2-1 and consolidating it with another after a heavy forehand into the corner for 5-2. The third seed netted a backhand on his first set point but Federer returned the compliment on the following point, and Djokovic headed to the chair to the sound of the large Serb contingent celebrating noisily. If the first set had been an exhibition of serving dominance, the second would be the complete opposite. Djokovic let out a huge roar when he converted his first break point of the match at 1-1, successive backhand errors letting Federer down, and the Swiss appeared rattled as he muttered to umpire Enric Molina at the changeover about the Serb’s team coaching him from the stands . Now a set and a break down, the four-time Australian Open champion needed to find a way back into the match but, in the event, Djokovic handed it to him with a sloppy game that gave the break straight back for 2-2. And the momentum shifted, seemingly definitively, in Federer’s favour when he played a superb defensive point to break once again for a 4-2 lead, before seeing off two more break points in the following game – the second with the bravest of lob volleys that left Djokovic sprawled on the court. But the 29-year-old Swiss failed to serve out the set two games later after Djokovic chased down a poor drop shot and guided a forehand down the line to break back, and incredibly he then regained his earlier advantage by breaking for the third time when Federer sliced a backhand into the bottom of the net.

There was to be no wavering when Djokovic served for the set and he sealed it with a blistering backhand winner down the line, prompting Federer to head disconsolately off court, presumably as much to clear his head as take advantage of a bathroom break. It apparently had some effect as the world number two returned to launch another assault on the Djokovic serve, but the Serb staved off three break points with some heavy serving and then set about finishing the job. Again it was the Federer backhand that let him down when successive errors on that side gave Djokovic a potentially decisive break at 2-1, but the Swiss grabbed a lifeline to level at 4-4 when a net cord sat up for him to steer away a forehand winner. The serving superiority of the first set was long forgotten by now, though, and Djokovic’s breathless movement behind the baseline earned him three more break points at 0-40 in the next game, with Federer netting a backhand on the third. After nearly three hours, Djokovic arrived at the moment of truth as he served for the match, overcoming a nervous double-fault at the start and two missed opportunities on match points to convert his third with a service winner.

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