Novak Djokovic is through to his eighth Australian open final after defeating Roger Federer 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-3 in their fiftieth meeting.
There had been much debate about Federer's participation after his hobbled five-set win over Sandgren but it was never in doubt the Swiss would take to the court in a tournament he's often described as a second home.
And while the six-time champion showed glimpses of brilliance, a troubling groin injury hindered his movement to prevent him making it truly competitive as Djokovic shook off an early 1-4 deficit in the first set to progress in 2 hours and 18 minutes.
Federer will now head off back to Switzerland for the ski season (where he's purely a spectator) and then prepare for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships which start in February.
Djokovic, on the other hand, will be in Sunday's final where he will face Dominic Thiem or Sascha Zverev for a chance to win his seventeenth Grand Slam title.
Quick Match Recap
Federer won the toss and elected to serve. The Swiss found himself down 15-40 after some conservative serving but he quickly cranked up the pace to hold after a multi-deuce game.
It was then Novak's turn to face early breakpoints when he hit a forehand wide at 15-30 but unlike Roger, he couldn't escape, falling victim to a ridiculous backhand pass threaded down the line.
In game three the Serb opened another 0-30 window and despite Roger making 30-30, a netted forehand gave Djokovic the break back for 1-2.
Djokovic then had two game points to level, but Roger reeled three points in a row to create a breakpoint. Novak saved it with a big serve. A second breakpoint followed which was again saved with a big serve but on the third chance, Roger connected on the return with a crisp backhand that Djokovic couldn't handle to break for 3-1.
A hold to thirty consolidated the break for Federer and the six-time champion quickly had three chances to secure a double break at 0-40. However, Djokovic saved them with some impressive serving before holding for 2-4.
Federer responded with an emphatic hold for 5-2 and again had 0-30 on the Djokovic serve but couldn't land the killer blow as Djokovic held for 3-5.
It was then Federer's turn to face 0-40 but he couldn't find a way out as Djokovic broke back for 4-5.
A quick hold put the score at 5-5 and it looked as though Djokovic was en route to winning four games in a row when he fashioned 15-40, but Roger laid down the hammer to hold for 6-5.
Djokovic then fired down a clutch ace 30-30 in game twelve as he went onto hold to force a tie break.
The Serb had played flawlessly in their three tiebreaks at Wimbledon last year, making zero unforced errors and this followed a similar pattern as Djokovic ran away with it 7-1.
Into set two and Djokovic kicked off with a comfortable hold for 1-0. Two breakpoints then gave him a chance to fully seize control but Roger dug deep to level at 1-1.
Both players then began to roll through their service games with neither player facing a breakpoint during the first 8 games.
In game nine, Roger decided to take up an aggressive return position well inside the baseline but it didn't disrupt the Serb who held for 5-4.
Federer then had a game point to hold for 5-5 but a slick pass at deuce gave Djokovic set point which he converted by expertly tracking down a drop shot to push a forehand into the open court.
Into the third and with intensity levels not quite there from both players, little was created on the return early doors.
In game six, Federer failed to close out the game from 40-15 and went on to drop serve. Djokovic then held from 0-30 to lead 5-2.
Federer then held to force Djokovic to serve it out and he went into hyper aggression mode on the return to blast a couple of winners to make 30-30 but Novak sealed it 6-3.
|Aus Open SF 2020||Roger Federer||Novak Djokovic|
|1st serve in||65% (68/104)||73% (74/102)|
|Win 1st serve||66% (45/68)||73% (54/74)|
|Win 2nd serve||42% (15/46)||54% (15/28)|
|Breakpoints won||29% (2/7)||36% (4/11)|
|Net points won||67% (20/30)||92% (11/12)|
|Receiving points won||31% (32/102)||39% (41/104)|
|Return unforced errors||1||3|
|Total points won||93||113|
|Fastest serve||200 km/h||206 km/h|
|1st Serve Average||182 km/h||192 km/h|
|2nd serve average||157 km/h||161 km/h|
Thoughts on the Match
I think Novak summed this one up well in a couple of sentences when he was speaking to Jim Courier after the match:
It could have definitely gone a different way if he’d used those breakpoints. He got off to a good start and I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I have to say I respect Roger for coming out tonight. He was obviously hurt and not close to his best in terms of movement. It wasn’t the right mindset at the beginning, because I was watching him and how he was moving early on, rather than executing my own shots. I managed to dig my way back and win the first set, which was obviously mentally important. Djokovic speaking to Jim Courier on court after his win
As Djokovic alluded to on the court, in that first set he wasn't playing his natural game. With a lot of the pre-match build-up being around Federer's injury and Novak aware Federer wasn't moving as well before they had even hit a ball, he wasn't sure how to play. As a result, he made some errors and Federer was good enough to get that early lead.
However, once Novak got his act together, it was always going to be plain sailing. No doubt fans are rueing that first set as some kind of missed opportunity but even if Federer had taken it, barring back to back miracles, Djokovic would have taken the match in four sets.
A tad disappointing he didn't get the double break of course, but it made very little material difference to the outcome as the Serb is simply far too good to come a cropper to a player who only had a serve and limited offence on the night.
Other than that there's not really much to look into. The tennis was never going to be the highest quality but I thought Roger showed what can happen if you just try to flatten out the groundstrokes as he hit 46 winners, some of which were ridiculously good. If he brings that mindset when fully fit, then we will see a lot of fun matches this year and hopefully more against Djokovic as it's a great matchup when they are both on it.
As for Novak, business-like as usual. After those early troubles, he played a solid enough match to get through without any hitches and he's a big favourite regardless of who he faces on Sunday.
Finally, looking at the tournament as a whole, it can't have gone much better for Roger in terms of how far he progressed. Making the last four with no lead-up tournament and managing to scrape home in a couple of matches that he could easily have lost is a stellar performance.
In the short term cruising through without dropping a set and facing off against Djokovic with plenty left in the tank would have trumped getting dragged to five by Millman and Sandgren. But for the rest of the season, he has some good intel on where his game is at and how he responds to five-setters which should help him peak later in the year so I think it's been a good eleven days in Melbourne.
Well, I thought I was going to make it to be honest. I went for a scan that same night and it was alright. After that, we just didn't push it. I didn't practice, I took a day off and then today I really rested it until the last possible moment. I didn't have any pain in the daily stuff that was a positive sign. Also, the way I felt in the fifth was in someways encouraging compared to second and third in the match, I had with Sandgren.
So I felt like I was always going to make it the timeout is something that needed to be done I thought to prevent any further problems. Once in the match, I felt like I was able to finish which is a good thing. I was playing with nothing to lose obviously, I was trying to take big cuts at the ball. Trying to keep the rallies to a minimal. Make sure I keep him off guard and mix it up as well as I can. I think I returned very well in the beginning and I got some really good conditions. Unfortunate I wasn't able to serve it out, I feel like I should have found a way to do that but wasn't able to do. We know how tough he is especially when you give him too any second serves and he was better on the way today, no question about it.
Overall I guess I am very happy. I think this was the maximum to go in the tournament, especially after the Millman and Sandgren match. Today was horrible to go through what I did, nice entrance, nice send-off but in between it is one to forget. Just because you know you have a 3% chance to win, you go for it, you never know but once you can see it coming that it's not going to work any more it's tough. But at the end of the day, I am happy. Overall I played alright, I know I can play better, but I can play much worse as well and with no tournaments beforehand it's a very good result. Federer speaking in his press conference after losing to Djokovic
As always let me know your thoughts on the match against Djokovic and the Australian Open as a whole in the comments.