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Djokovic ousts Feds to reach Aussie Open final

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Originally published on: 27/01/11 11:26

Novak Djokovic put himself within touching distance of his second Australian Open title after he defeated defending champion Roger Federer in a physically punishing semi-final in Melbourne.

While Djokovic rose to the occasion, the Swiss failed to hit the heights that had taken him to the title under the lights of Rod Laver Arena last year, losing 7-6 7-5 6-4 to the 23-year-old Serb in three hours.

“Overall it was a great performance. I’m very happy with the way I played,” said Djokovic.

“I knew that if i want[ed] to win this match, I will have to stay positive. And when I have been given the chance I should use it.”

Djokovic did exactly that, and his agressive approach (“I wanted to step in and hit it”) gave him the upper hand against the world No.2 in a tight first set which had to be decided on a tiebreak.

Baseline exchanges were long and brutish – two uncharacteristic backhand errors from the Swiss – a down the line attempt that he dragged wide and a slice that found the net tape – handed the Serb a 4-1 advantage in the breaker – a gap that Federer never looked like closing as Djokovic pinched the opening set.

A pattern looked as if to be developing when Djokovic broke early in the second, peppering Federer deep behind the baseline to draw several more errors from the Swiss on the backhand side.

Visibly irritated at falling a set and a break behind, Federer geed himself up by angrily asking the umpire to monitor the amount of time Djokovic was taking between points. The fist pumps soon followed as a fired-up Federer broke straight back, grabbed a routine hold and then sealed another break after some stirling defence to move into a 4-2 lead.

But come the ninth game, Djokovic had broken back again and two games later he broke for a third time in the set for a 6-5 lead. The Serb duly served out the second set to love, hammering a bullet backhand winner down the line to clinch set point.

Federer made a fist of a fight back early in the third set, but Djokovic dug deep to hold before breaking Federer again in the third game. More surly than sublime on court this time out, the 16-time Grand Slam champ kept his emotions inside, but couldn’t seem to find a response to  the relentless pressure. Until game eight that is, when Federer exploited some nervy play from Djokovic to break back level at 4-4. But just when Federer seemed ready to get back into the fight, he handed Djokovic three break points. The Serb converted on the third, before holding on  to clinch his seventh – and arguably most important – triumph in 20 career meetings with the Swiss.

The defending champion applauded his opponent after his semi-final exit. “I thought he played a great match,” said the Swiss of Djokovic. “I didn’t think I played badly myself so it was a match played at very high intensity for a long period of time.

“Clearly it’s disappointing to lose, but what to do if we plays well on the big points, and potentially maybe I didn’t. It was a tough match.”

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