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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The is in your court.