© Getty Images
World No. 3 Novak Djokovic knocked out two-time defending champion and 2004 winner Roger Federer of Switzerland 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(5) in two hours and 28 minutes on Rod Laver Arena on Friday night. The Serbian is the ninth player in the Open Era to reach the Australian Open final without dropping a set.
"It's unbelievable to beat the No. 1 player in the world, probably the best this court has seen," said Djokovic after his second career victory in seven meetings over ATP World No. 1 Federer.
"I am very proud. It's very difficult to play against a player who is so dominant on any surface. [Federer] has been so successful in the last couple of years in Australia and he had the crowd behind him. I am amazed at the way I coped with the pressure and I played my best tennis."
Djokovic advances to his second consecutive Grand Slam final where he will meet unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, currently No. 38 in the South African Airways Rankings. It will be the youngest Melbourne final since Stefan Edberg beat fellow 21-year-old Pat Cash in 1987.
At 20 year, 250 days, Djokovic will be the sixth youngest finalist at the Australian Open since 1968. Swede Mats Wilander was the youngest champion in Melbourne at 19 years, 111 days in 1983.
Photo Gallery | A New Star is Born: Tsonga Reaches Maiden Final
Federer got off to an aggressive start but it wasn’t until the seventh game that the Swiss was able to break the Djokovic serve for a 4-3 lead after a long rally at 30-40. Federer confirmed the break and looked set to seal the opening set, but his 20-year-old opponent fought back in stunning fashion by forcing Federer into a number of groundstroke errors. Djokovic won four games in a row to take a 45-minute opener that included 15 winners.
Djokovic continued his dominance in the early stages of the second set; continuing to perplex the World No. 1 with varied service placement. By returning Federer’s groundstrokes with interest, the pressure began to tell and Djokovic sealed service breaks in the fourth and sixth games for a 5-1 lead. By winning nine out of 10 games, the Rod Laver Arena was silenced by the workmanlike performance of the Belgrade native. Federer responded immediately with a break of his own but was unable to save the set, which Djokovic clinched 6-3 on his second set point.
At two sets to love down, Federer set up three break points on the Djokovic serve in the second game of the third set. He failed to convert the opportunities and found himself facing two break points at 2-1. The Swiss regrouped and the match continued on serve and looked set for a tie-break when Federer created the first of two set point opportunities on the Djokovic serve at 30-40. Djokovic recovered both points courtesy of service winners.
Federer hit an ace on the first point of the tie-break and rushed the net to pressurize Djokovic into a forehand error for a 2-0 lead. Federer made it 3-1, but then hit successive backhand errors with Djokovic rushing the net. Both players continued to fight and scrap to 5-5, but it was Djokovic who converted his first match point when, after a long rally, Federer hit a forehand into the net to end his 19-match winning streak at the Australian Open. Djokovic collapsed onto the court and waved emotionally to the crowd as the enormity of his victory hit him.
It was an impressive display from Djokovic, who hit 13 aces and 37 winners. He was able to win 19 of 24 points on net approaches. Federer could only convert two of nine break point opportunities and drops to 72-3 in Grand Slam play since 2005 Wimbledon.
The loss brings to an end a streak of 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals appearances for Federer. The last major he failed to reach the final was at Roland Garros in May 2005, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
It was his first loss in straight sets at a Grand Slam since the third round at Roland Garros in 2004 (l. to Kuerten). His last Grand Slam loss on a hard-court came at the 2002 US Open fourth round to Max Mirnyi. As a result his 40-match winning streak on hard courts at major championships – dating back to the 2005 Australian Open semifinals (l. to Safin) – comes to an end.
"Of course, I've created a monster, so I know I need to always win every tournament," Federer told reporters. "But semis is still, you know, pretty good.
"It's not easy coming out every week trying to win. You'll always run into fellow top-10 players or other guys who are on a streak or on a hot run or surprise you.
That's the difficulty about tennis.
I've had it for a long, long time. I've had to deal with all sort of different streaks. I didn't feel particular pressure at all tonight, no."
On Sunday, Djokovic and Tsonga will attempt to win their first Grand Slam title. The last time two players attempted to win their first major was at 2005 Roland Garros when Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta.
ATP Profiles: Novak Djokovic | Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
It will be the first Grand Slam tournament that Federer or Nadal will not win since the 2005 Australian Open (Safin). They accounted for the last 11 Grand Slam titles.
The last final at the Australian Open between two players battling for their first Grand Slam title was in 1998 when Petr Korda defeated Marcelo Rios.
Watch live matches, highlights, interviews and features at AOTV
Thursday: A New Star is Born: Tsonga Reaches Maiden Final
Wednesday: Federer Locks No. 1 Ranking; Battles Past Blake
Wednesday: Djokovic Reaches Fourth Straight Slam Semifinal
Tuesday: Giant-Killer Tsonga Continues Dream Run
Tuesday: Nadal Stays Alive in Hunt for No. 1s
Monday: Djokovic Ends Hewitt's Dream; Meets Ferrer in QFs
Monday: Blake Sets Up Federer Showdown in Quarterfinals
Week 1 News