Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Djokovic 'unbelievable' in rolling by Federer

MELBOURNE, Australia — Like Serena Williams before him, Novak Djokovic moved into another Australian Open championship decider with a relatively untroubled semifinal win.

Top-ranked Djokovic had a 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over No. 3 Roger Federer on Thursday. Hours earlier on Rod Laver Arena, Williams advanced to within one win of another Grand Slam milestone, beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4 in a semifinal that was almost a no-contest between the players who will be Nos. 1 and 3 in the next women's rankings.

If six-time champion Williams wins Saturday's final against No. 7-seeded Angelique Kerber, she'll equal Steffi Graf's record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles, a record in the Open era and the second most in history behind Margaret Court's 24.

The signs were ominous from the beginning for 17-time Grand Slam champion and No. 3-ranked Federer. Djokovic, now into his sixth Australian final — he has won all five previous — held his first service game at love and broke Federer in the second. After four minutes, Federer was two games down.

The first set was over within 22 minutes. "You had the impression Djoko was seeing the tennis ball like it was the size of a soccer ball," said Severin Luthi, Federer's coach. "He could hit them with all his force and not miss."

Spectators — including a woman with a sign reading: "Just Married But Willing to Exchange for Federer" — were firmly behind him, applauding Djokovic's service faults and giving Federer a standing ovation when he broke to go ahead 4-2 in the third set.

The end came quickly in the fourth. Djokovic broke Federer in the eighth game to go up 5-3, and not even a stunning down-the-line shot after he earlier chased down a lob on the same point could save the Swiss star.

Djokovic held three match points in the next game and clinched it in 2 hours, 19 minutes when Federer netted a backhand. Djokovic, who won three Grand Slam titles last year, took a 23-22 career edge over Federer.

"Definitely I've played unbelievable the first two sets, but that's what is necessary against Roger," Djokovic said. "He's been playing on a very high level at this tournament, and he dropped only one set. I came up with the right intensity, great concentration."

Federer said he wasn't surprised by the early blitz.

"I've seen Novak play this well before," he said. "It's tough when it's from the start because obviously you got to try to stop the bleeding at some point. He can get one or two sets all of a sudden … and it's tough to get back into it."

In Sunday's final, Djokovic faces the winner of today's semifinal between No. 2-ranked Andy Murray and Milos Raonic.

"This has been the first Grand Slam that I won back in 2008," Djokovic said. "Each time I come back … and step on Rod Laver Arena I have this beautiful memory."

Williams is the overwhelming favorite in her final against Kerber, and not just based on recent form. She continued her perfect streak in Australian Open semifinals, and she has won all six of her finals at Melbourne Park.

"I definitely block it out," Williams replied to a question about equaling Graf's mark. "I was one off last year, too! If I don't win Saturday, I'll still be one off."

Despite all her success, it is a loss that is inspiring Williams in this tournament. She was two matches away from a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015 when she lost to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals.

"Physically I'm feeling a lot better, mentally I needed that break after the Open," she said, but "I didn't think I would do this well this fast."

Kerber ended Sydney-born British player Johanna Konta's surprising run with a 7-5, 6-2 semifinal win to reach her first Grand Slam final.

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