Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer to make Australian Open final
Novak Djokovic today beat Roger Federer to move into the Australian Open final and leave the Swiss master without one of the four grand slam titles for the first time since 2003.
With Rafael Nadal also going out last night it means Sunday's final will be the first at a major in three years not to feature either the Spaniard or Federer.
And while it may signal a changing of the guard, the more immediate focus should be on Djokovic, who was quite simply brilliant in winning 7-6 (7/3) 7-5 6-4 to move on to a meeting with either David Ferrer or Andy Murray.
Federer threatened first by bringing up a break point in Djokovic's first service game but the Serb escaped danger with some big groundstrokes which had the Swiss scrambling.
It proved to be the only break chance in the first set as the serve dominated.
Djokovic was certainly holding his own in the baseline exchanges, however, after targeting the Federer backhand. But he could not find a way through and the set went to a tie-break in which the world number three was more pro-active and deservedly took it 7-3.
Djokovic remained on the front foot at the start of the second and he grabbed the first break of the match for a 2-1 lead after Federer sent a backhand long.
Federer appeared rattled and had a word with the umpire as he went to the chair.
But, as he has done so many times over the years, the 16-time grand slam champion found the perfect riposte, breaking back for 2-2 and then again claiming the Djokovic serve to establish a 4-2 advantage.
The Swiss still had to withstand a Djokovic rally, saving two break points, the second of which with a delightful volley lob over his opponent after he had chased down a drop shot, to move 5-2 ahead.
But Djokovic came again with Federer serving for the set and this time got the break after getting to a short ball and steering a forehand down the line.
Djokovic's ability to move forward swiftly came to the fore again as he clinched the next game with a beautiful angled backhand to level it at 5-5.
The momentum had swung once more and Federer, all of a sudden, looked vulnerable.
And it was no surprise when the Swiss was broken again after dumping a weary-looking backhand into the net to hand Djokovic the chance to serve for the set.
The Serb did not crumble and succeeded where Federer had failed 20 minutes earlier.
No one inside a packed Rod Laver Arena expected the defending champion to leave quietly and he started the third set with renewed purpose. He brought up three break points in a 13-minute second game but Djokovic held on.
Federer had to scramble himself in the next game, two big serves dragging him back from 15-40, but Djokovic's intensity did not dwindle and he broke through for a 2-1 lead which soon became 3-1.
The former world number one threatened to get back on level terms by bringing up two break points in the eighth game. Djokovic saved the first with a booming ace out wide but he could not stave off the second as the ball looped up nicely off a net cord and Federer put it away from mid-court.
At 4-4 the set was back in the balance but Djokovic quickly regained the upper hand by breaking Federer to 30.
And after a few late nerves, the Serbian served it out.
"He puts pressure on you so I tried to stay aggressive to the last moment," he said.
"I had to take my chances. In the second set I was a break up and then 20 minutes later 5-2 down so if I had lost that set God knows where the match would have gone."
On tomorrow's second semi-final between Ferrer and Murray, Djokovic added: "I am looking forward to watching it from my bed with some popcorn.
"They are both great players, David played a great match against Rafa although he was struggling with an injury.
"And Andy has been playing really well. It's a grand slam final, anything can happen but I believe in myself."