Novak Djokovic got the better of Roger Federer on Thursday, beating him 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the Australian Open final.
Federer, 38, has been dealing with a sore groin muscle and had to pour a lot of energy into a punishing five-set quarterfinal match two days ago, but at first he seemed like his old self. He roared out of the gate with three aces in five minutes and took a 5-2 lead in the first set. He was in total control.
Then things started to turn. Djokovic came alive and began battling back, winning the next three games to tie the score at 5-5. At 6-6 it went to a tiebreak, which Djokovic won easily 6-1.
Djokovic was in the driver’s seat, especially after Federer returned from a medical timeout not looking quite right. The two traded games in the second set, but Djokovic kept the upper hand, knowing that Federer would be impeded by his injury.
By the third set Federer was clearly hurting, while Djokovic, six years younger than Federer, looked ready to play another full match. Federer had a few chances to break through — he managed to get to at least 30 in the last four games of the set — but Djokovic was fully healthy and fully in control. He defeated Federer in just two hours and 18 minutes.
Just like Rafael Nadal, who failed to advance to the finals on Wednesday, Djokovic is nipping at Federer’s heels. If he wins the Australian Open final, he will be just three major victories shy of tying Federer’s record of 20. Djokovic also holds a 27-23 lead over Federer in 50 career meetings, and has won six straight matches against him.
It was a tough match for Federer, especially playing with an injury, but the result doesn’t impact his plans for the future. After the match, he told the media that he feels good and has no plans to retire.
Djokovic will face the winner of the semifinal match between No. 5 Dominic Thiem and No. 7 Alexander Zverev.
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