Australian Open Day 10: Murray and Raonic Book Remaining Semi-Final Spots

So as expected, Murray and Raonic booked the remaining semi-final spots after they both won in four sets. Murray defeated Ferrer 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 and Raonic defeated Monfils 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

I only watched the beginning of the Murray vs Ferrer match. That’s it. These matches just don’t interest me much and I needed to catch up on sleep. I probably won’t even bother catching the highlights.

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When you have Djokovic vs Federer coming up who cares, right? My preview of that match is mostly what this post will be about. That said, I am glad Murray and Raonic won because their brands of tennis match up well.

I may preview that semi-final tomorrow if there is time but, for now, I want to turn my attention to the big upcoming Djokerer semi-final.

  • Semi-Final 1 Preview: The Case for Federer

Well, here we are again. The third slam meeting between Djokovic and Federer in as many slams and the 45th installment of this riveting rivalry. There is quite a bit of significance about this particular meeting in the rivalry other than all the usual stuff.

And that is the fact that the head-to-head is currently tied up at 22-22 and this is Djokovic’s first opportunity to take the lead in the rivalry. If he does so he will also lead the head-to-heads with all the big four members which I find quite significant.

Djokovic turned the rivalry with Nadal in his favor in Doha(24-23) and now he has Federer in his sights. I think most people would agree that this will be the real final. The winner will 99% certain win the title. Murray and Raonic are pretty much playing for the runner-up plate.

What is different about this Djokerer meeting as oppose to their last three slam meetings is that this is a semi-final. That surely helps Federer given that he lost the last three meetings in finals and he will be fresher in the semis.

The more there is at stake and the more the match has been built up the better for Djokovic and the worse for Federer. That is because Djokovic just deals a lot better with pressure. There is more at stake in a final because it’s been built up longer and the winner wins the title.

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But like I said, most people would agree that this is the real final and there is still going to be an awful lot at stake. The other thing to consider if you want to make a case for Federer is the fact that this is the Australian Open on Plexicusion against the Plexicushion GOAT which makes him the overwhelming underdog.

This lessens the pressure on him as opposed to the Wimbledon and US Open finals. You can never underestimate the Federer hype and although the cult probably believes he is the favorite I think most people would agree that Djokovic is the favorite in these conditions at least.

Incidentally, I saw a poll on Twitter last night that had Federer winning the title again but I think the hype is, at least, a little less than it was at Wimbledon and the US Open. So there are already two big reasons why I think there will be less pressure on Federer.

Other than that you can argue that Federer is in top form(which he was at Wimbledon and the US Open as well) while Djokovic is struggling. I don’t buy the latter argument because even though Djokovic was not at his peak against Nishikori, he still won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

If anything, that is an ominous sign for Federer.

  • Semi-Final 1 Preview: The Case for Djokovic

Now let’s look at Djokovic’s chances in detail. I thought his first three matches were very good. Probably his best match was against Halys where he was almost in Doha final-like form. Seppi was a bit more of an awkward opponent and Simon was the very definition of awkward.

The only objective against Simon was to survive and win. The tennis itself didn’t matter in the least because Simon brings out the worst in everyone. It’s how he makes a living. So I thought Djokovic did an exceptional job at surviving that match.

Some people are still taking that match as a sign that Djokovic is not in the best of form or even the match against Nishikori, failing to take into account what a tennis disease Simon is. Djokovic even took the day off after that match to get away from tennis.

Surviving Simon is like surviving cancer. You are not at your best right away. Your body is still weak and needs time to recover. So I’m not surprised Djokovic was not at his best against Nishikori. He was still finding his rhythm.

But the main thing is that he won that match in straight sets even after Nishikori broke him twice in the third set. He raised his game in the third set when he needed to which was a good sign. He hit one staggering pass at 3-3 and advantage Nishikori and proceeded to break serve.

And on match point, he hit another stunning backhand winner to close the deal with an exclamation mark. That was kind of an ideal finish for Djokovic going into the match with Federer. He certainly did not want Nishikori to consolidate one of the breaks and win the third set.

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If that happened I would have started to have serious doubts about his form. But as it stands I think he goes into the semis with Federer with maximum confidence. And this is Djokovic we are talking about after all.

He raises his game when he has to like a champion. I really have immense faith in Djokovic. The way he came through in the Wimbledon finals but especially in the US Open final showed super human mental strength.

He always has another gear. Just as the opponent seemed to have turned the match around he just raises his level and shuts the door. It’s like he has infinite reserves. Like he always plays within himself just in case he needs another level.

Look, this is Plexicushion and we can’t deny that Djokovic is the favorite. This is like Wimbledon was for Federer and the French Open was for Nadal. He thrives in these conditions. He’s only lost once in Melbourne in the last five years.

You’d think Federer had a far better chance to defeat Djokovic at Wimbledon and US Open, especially at the US Open where he had the support of a rampant pro-Federer crowd. That was the most difficult situation Djokovic has ever faced on a tennis court and he came through with flying colors.

This match should be peanuts in comparison. He had that whole crowd, the SABR, peak Federer, and his cursed history at the US Open to deal with. What he has to deal with now is nothing in comparison. He has never lost a set to Federer on Plexicushion.

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He defeated Federer in straight sets in 2008 as a 20-year old and again in 2011 just to show that 2008 was no fluke. Does all of this mean that Djokovic is guaranteed to win? Of course not. It only means that he is the favorite.

And upsets happen all the time. I just think Federer finds it very hard to penetrate Djokovic on Plexicushion. If he can’t penetrate him on grass or Decoturf how will he do it on slow Plexicushion? Djokovic’s returns and ground game is like an impenetrable fortress.

His consistency and depth from the baseline and movement are well documented and he recently added more dimensions to his game with the serve, volleys, and bigger forehand. He really rips that forehand now and just in 2016 he has already started hitting more winners.

If he plays anything close to the level of the Doha final this will get really ugly for Federer but who knows what his form will be like. That’s the thing about tennis. We just don’t know.

If Djokovic plays at the level I expect him to then I think Federer will do very well to win a set and to actually win the match Djokovic would have to be well off his game.

  • Semi-Final 1 Preview: The Match

You would think for Federer to have any chance whatsoever of winning this he must win the first set. If he does that it becomes about 50-50. If Djokovic then evens up at a set all he becomes the heavy favorite again.

So for Federer to win the match he probably needs to win the first two sets. And for that to happen he would have to play better than he has ever played before and Djokovic must play worse than he has ever played before.

So it’s a pretty tall order for Federer but stranger things have happened. Federer will be the aggressor as usual but it’s going to be interesting to see how aggressive Djokovic is. The more aggressive he is the worse for Federer so if I was Becker I’d tell him to be super aggressive.

If Djokovic comes out ripping winners and breaking early that would shock Federer and quickly dampen his spirits. And Djokovic has the ability now to do that. He can take the ball on the rise and hit the ball hard like we saw in the Doha final and in the earlier rounds in Melbourne.

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Djokovic doesn’t need to take risks, though. Plexicushion is such that he can just play his consistent baseline tennis and probably still defeat anyone. The problem for Federer is how to end points. He will attempt to do so with his serve, forehand, and volleys.

But it is very difficult to hit through the court on Plexicusion which means he will have to play extremely high-risk tennis to have a chance. Djokovic will be all over Federer’s serve from the start and pin him back on the baseline with relentless depth and consistency.

When rallies go longer than 5 shots you’d expect Djokovic to come out the winner a high percentage of the time. Federer’s backhand is no match for Djokovic’s god given backhand and his only hope is to serve unbelievably well, be extremely aggressive from the forehand side and come to the net as often as possible.

But this is not the US Open or Wimbledon where he can just stand on the baseline and try to dominate proceedings. If he couldn’t do it there I don’t know how he is going to do it here. His biggest hope is if Djokovic has a very bad day. Otherwise, I can only see one winner here.

Looking forward to another great match!

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  • Highlights

The is in your court.

Posted in Australian Open, Grand Slams, Uncategorized.

8 Comments

  1. Nice write up Ruan.
    I would say djoker is the clear favorite here but that remains to be seen I guess.
    You say djokovic has never lost a set to federer on plexicushion but I think federer defeated him in 4th round at Oz open in 2007. Surface at that time was not plexicushion?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Muhammad, the surface in 2007 was rebound ace.

    [Reply]

  2. Just like to weigh in with my thoughts on Federer vs Djokovic after the match. On the one hand, this looks like a terrible defeat for Federer, but on the other hand as a Federer fan I actually feel more confident about his chances of beating Djokovic in a slam in the future than I did before the match. Djokovic played so well in the first two sets, that when Federer went 30-40 down at 2-2 in the third, against any other player (maybe except peak Nadal) there would have been a subconscious thought, something like: “it’s just not my day today”, but Federer rephrased that to “it might not be my day today, but before I lose I’m going to make life as difficult as possible for Djokovic” and that is exactly what he did. He won the third set and the fourth was touch-and-go until Djokovic broke serve. On a faster court, and if Djokovic had been slightly less dialed in for the first 2 sets, Federer would have a real chance of winning, and I feel that if this match had happened at Wimbledon it would most likely have at least gone to 5 again like in 2014. But I have got to give Djokovic huge credit for his play in the first two sets, completely unstoppable, as good as his performance in the Doha final for those two sets. But, Federer was there waiting once he slipped up a little in the third and that is what I wanted to see from a Federer fan’s perspective. Obviously there were some idiots who thought that he could win the match after winning that set, but it was never going to happen. I am mostly just pleased he got the set rather than disappointed he lost the match, because I was genuinely thinking that it was going to be something like 6-1 6-2 6-3, which would not have been good to watch, and I’m sure even you as a Djokovic fan would not want to see a match that one-sided in the semis of a GS, and I know I wouldn’t if I were the crowd and had to pay for the privilege. In other words:

    Set 1: Djokovic extremely good, Federer OK
    Set 2: Djokovic extremely good, Federer OK
    Set 3: Djokovic good, Federer very good
    Set 4: Djokovic very good, Federer very good

    Nothing anyone could have done about those first two sets though, IIRC Novak had something close to 20 winners against 6 UEs for the first two sets, nothing you can do about that.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey, Charlie. Sorry about another loss. I don’t think this match was any different than the previous two slam meetings. Like I said in my post, Nole’s level was expected to drop after the first two sets. If he won the first two sets by a close margin like in 2008 or 2011 he would have won in straight sets as well.

    So in a way, his form in the first two sets helped Federer to at least win a set. I think it is amazing that Federer keeps his level up but I didn’t see any improvement for him today in terms of making things closer. It was pretty much carbon copies of the Wimby and USO finals in terms of closeness.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to shoot you down. I admire your enthusiasm. I just don’t see any reason to believe Federer is getting closer. But yeah, amazing job to still keep it pretty close.

    [Reply]

    universal123 Reply:

    No this particular match wasn’t closer. But my point is if he can make it this close at the AO, he might be in better form than last year and perhaps could make it even closer or even win at Wimbledon or the USO. Also, he obviously still has a good chance in BO3 regardless of the surface.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well if that’s the way you feel. I don’t see any reason to believe he is coming closer. He is not even pushing it to five sets, in which case you’d figure Djokovic is still easily the favorite. To win he has to win in 4 sets, and he is damn far from that.

    [Reply]

    universal123 Reply:

    I just am thinking based on law of averages. It is impossible to play well at key moments in every tournament. As long as Federer keeps getting to meet Djokovic, one of these days, and sooner rather than later, Novak will be upset before he plays Federer or Federer will turn in one of his ridiculous performances like against Murray last year at Wimbledon or RG semifinal 2011, and Djokovic will simultaneously have a bad day. Because of the way statistics work, with enough matches, such an outcome is inevitable in the long term. The only question is whether Federer can keep making semis and finals for long enough for it to pay off for him.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah, it’s just as likely that it could happen to Federer or even more likely since he is the old one. It could also happen that Djokovic humiliates him like in the first two sets at the AO but then win the third set by the same score. Statistically, that must happen if they keep playing because Federer will decline before Djokovic.

    [Reply]

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