Australian Open Day 11: Djokovic Pulls Ahead in the Head-to-Head With Federer After Masterclass

First of all, I’m sorry to the balanced Fedfans for another slam loss to Djokovic for Federer but you have an awful lot to be proud of Federer for.

By making the semis in Melbourne again this year and losing to Djokovic in four sets, he proved once again that he is still playing peak level tennis.

Not even in 2008 or 2011 could he win a set off Djokovic on Plexicushion.

  • Djokovic Rips Through First Two Sets with God-Like Tennis

That said, Djokovic’s level in the first two sets was so high that a drop in level was almost inevitable. Djokovic’s level already showed signs at the end of the second set of dropping.

He had two set points to breadstick Federer in the second set as well after doing so in the first set. On the first set point, Federer played the perfect attacking point and there was nothing Djokovic could do.

But on the second set point, Djokovic had a look at a second serve which came straight into his forehand but he drilled it into the net. Had he made that and won the second set 6-1 as well it would have been truly astonishing.

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But Federer held serve and Djokovic proceeded to hold serve to love himself to take a 6-1, 6-2 lead. The level of Djokovic in the first two sets was beyond belief. It was the same level he showed in the Doha final against Nadal and it resulted in the same scoreline.

One of the points of the match came at 3-1 in the second set and 15-0 on Federer serve. There was an extended baseline rally before Federer ripped a big inside out forehand. Djokovic somehow reached it and threw up an unbelievable defensive lob which sent Federer back to the baseline.

Another extended baseline rally ensued after which Djokovic hit an inside-out backhand winner. A soul-crushing point for Federer which allowed Djokovic to break again and go up 4-1.

Federer was simply a spectator. He had no say in the match whatsoever while he watched Djokovic picking him apart.

  • Federer Fights Back in the Third 

At the start of the third set Federer, at least, avoided another bakery product as he held serve to go up 2-1.

Then at 2-2 and 30-30 on Federer’s serve Djokovic hit one of the shots of the match when he chased down a very good pickup from Federer at the net and hit an angled crosscourt winner.

Breakpoint. He then had another look at a second serve, made a good return, but Federer hit a good stretch volley and Djokovic failed to pass him. It was only a half chance but still a chance for Djokovic and Federer went on to hold serve.

Having failed to take his half chance in that game, Djokovic proceeded to drop serve in the next game as Federer took a 4-2 lead. That sixth game was a monster game which went to several deuces and included one of the many points of the match where Federer chased down a drop volley from Djokovic that seemed out of reach and hit it for a crosscourt angled winner.

That shot right there was proof of Federer’s speed and how much his loss of footspeed has been exaggerated. That point and the one in the fourth set where he chased down the lob over his head and the volley from Djokovic to hit a backhand winner up the line tells me that Federer’s footwork and fitness have hardly declined at all.

Still don’t believe me? How about a quote from the man himself? His fans can keep on exaggerating his decline but I haven’t bought it for some time now and both the evidence and Federer’s own words contradict it repeatedly.

Back to the match, and Djokovic’s level had dropped and all of a sudden Federer was making a match of it. He started missing some returns and first serves which allowed Federer to breathe.

Not that he made it easy for Federer. With Federer serving for the third set at 5-3, there was still a marathon game which Federer did very well to win in the end. By now the crowd was losing their minds as you’d expect and the pressure was mounting on Djokovic.

  • Djokovic Inevitably Wins the Fourth Set

At the beginning of the fourth set and Djokovic serving Federer hit a lucky net cord which put him up 15-0. He then won the next point as well which put Djokovic under even more pressure at 0-30. This was a big chance for Federer to get the early break in the fourth set and really unleash the crowd.

But he failed to take advantage of his luck as Djokovic secured serve. Fast forward to 4-3 in favor of Djokovic after both players continued to hold serve. On the opening point of Federer’s service game, Djokovic hit anther one of the shots of the match when he hit a pass off balance with a continental grip on the forehand side.

Ominous signs for Federer. At 0-15, there was another great point which ended in Djokovic hitting a terrific backhand crosscourt pass. Now he had a real chance at 30-0. Federer won the next point at 15-30 after which there was another extraordinary point.

Djokovic missed two opportunities to finish the point at the net after which Federer made a brilliant backhand pass up the line. The crowd went nuts. I thought that might be a turning point in the match because Djokovic had no business losing that point.

But on the next point luck evened out as it was Djokovic’s turn to get a lucky net cord on a passing shot which set up break point. And when Djokovic gets lucky he makes it work for him as he crushed a second serve return to the feet of Federer which he couldn’t handle.

He had gotten the big break and went on to hold serve to love and turn the head-to-head in his favor 23-22 for the first time. After what I thought could be the turning point in the match Djokovic goes on to reel off the next six points to clinch the victory.

Like clockwork.

  • Final Thoughts

I’m not gonna lie. As a Djokovic fan, this is another very satisfying victory over the establishment. But again I just want to give credit to Federer and to the balanced Fedfans. You have stuck with your man and he has made you proud once again.

I thought after all the tough losses to Djokovic last year he could slump this year but he shook it off and came back strong and made the semis in Melbourne for an amazing 12th time. He has also made two finals and one semi in his last three slams.

Like I said, he has declined very little if at all and it is only Djokovic who prevents him from winning slams. Just extraordinary. Of course, the fact that Nadal is struggling is not hurting Federer but at age 34 what he is doing is unbelievable.

As for Djokovic, what more can you say? I had a feeling he may bring his level in the Doha final to the court today after two not-so-perfect matches, but I am superstitious and didn’t want to jinx.

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The way he came out and took control in the first two sets was together with the Doha final the highest level of tennis I have ever seen. Simply unplayable. Djokovic also matches up well against Federer.

The pace of Federer’s shots and offensive brand of tennis is certainly much more conducive to his game than the tennis disease that is Giles Simon. Djokovic’s movement, returns, backhand, and mental strength are the keys to his game.

Those are the areas in which he makes life very difficult for Federer. He neutralizes Federer’s biggest weapon, his serve, with his returns and he exploits Federer’s one-handed backhand with his own masterful backhand.

With his unbelievable movement and defense, he also makes Federer play the extra ball and neutralizes the best offensive game in the history of tennis. And last, but most importantly he is a mental monster who thrives under pressure.

  • The Rivalry

One wonders what the future of this great rivalry has in store. With this victory, Djokovic not only took the lead for the first time in the head-to-head but he leads the head-to-head in slams 9-6 and 3-1 in slam finals.

Since the beginning of 2015, he leads the head-to-head 6-3, having won all three slam meetings, the World Tour Finals final, the Rome final, and the Indian Wells final.

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Federer has won the Dubai final, the Cincinnati final, and the round-robin match at the World Tour Finals. It’s getting one-sided. Will Federer defeat Djokovic again and who can pose a serious threat to Djokovic in the coming years?

He looks utterly unstoppable but this is tennis and things change fast. He still has to win the final and although I said the winner of today’s match is 99% sure to win the title you just never know.

  • Semi-Final 2 Preview

This post has gotten too long so I won’t say much here other than the fact that Raonic and Murray are tied up 3-3 in the head-to-head and that I actually look forward quite a bit to this match. It’s a good matchup and Raonic will be looking to make his first slam final.

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I actually think he can do it. He already has that one Wimbledon semi-final in the bag so he won’t be overawed by the occasion. He has looked great since the start of the year and looks more driven and determined than ever.

Should be another cracker!

Who wins Semi-Final 2?

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The is in your court.

Posted in Australian Open, Grand Slams.

7 Comments

  1. I’m a little disappointed, of course, but it was pretty much the result I expected. Though I didn’t expect Fed to be completely run over in first 2 sets by a possessed Djokovic. I could hardly believe what I saw. I can’t remember having seen him play like that before (didn’t see Doha). As hard as it is when you’re rooting for the other player, I guess we should all count ourselves lucky for getting to witness something like that. The only time I can remember having seen something similiar was from Fed himself very early in his career. But that’s along time ago and memory degrades. What I saw today might just be the highest level I’ve ever seen.

    After those two sets, I was just hoping Roger could take a set and avoid complete humiliation, and at least he did that. I think a lot of players would have mentally thrown in the towel in the third set, so I’m at least proud that he kept fighting and got the set. He wasn’t
    gonna win, of course, but it was important to make it as difficult as possible for Novak if he’s gonna have any confidence at all left for future encounters between them. It will be interesting to see which version of Djokovic turns up in the final. Seems natural that he will drop his level a bit after that stupenduos display, but even with a mediocre performance he will most likely lift the trophy.

    Who do you prefer Nole to play against in the final? In the past he has sometimes had problems with very big servers, so maybe Raonic could cause him difficulties if he’s playing great. Hard to imagine Murray doing much, but you never know, right?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey, BE. Sorry about the loss, man. Yes, I remember Federer doing things like that in the past too. For instance, the 2004 US Open final against Hewitt. But yeah, the game evolves and Federer is, of course, a much better player than Hewitt. We are indeed privileged to watch a display like that.

    There is something surreal about it. The Doha final was about the same level but different opponents and different levels of importance. To do this at a slam in a match of such importance is special. I can understand if you are a Fedfan that you wouldn’t appreciate it as much.

    Who wants to see their player crushed like that? But I consider myself a true tennis fan who can appreciate different styles without a problem. Djokovic brings something entirely different than Federer to the tennis court. He is not as flashy but his backhand is still a master stroke and so is his returning of serve.

    What I enjoy about him is his ruthless efficiency. He is the player’s player. In a way a player for sophisticated tennis fans. I mean anyone can appreciate Federer’s brilliance. It takes a bit more to understand and appreciate what Djokovic does because it doesn’t necessarily appear as impressive as Federer.

    And yet it is more impressive probably. So I don’t expect Nole to get his due appreciation for some time still. But eventually, when Federer has retired perhaps and Djokovic has racked up some more slams people will come around.

    About the final opponent, Raonic would be more of an unknown factor and like you rightly said his serve could cause him difficulties but then again you can’t underestimate Murray either. Tough to say. I’d be less worried about Murray but it would also be nice to see a different final this year.

    Let’s wait and see. Do you have a preference?

    [Reply]

    Bjorn Eirik Reply:

    Good points. If Djokovic had played in another era maybe he would have gotten more appreciation, but then again he shines the brightest in his matches against Federer and Nadal. I certainly do find it a lot easier to appreciate Nole’s qualities when he plays against Nadal. It isn’t easy to watch your favourite player gets trashed, but over time, looking back on the matches I can at least see things from a little different perspective and be more appreciative of the tennis of both players.

    I don’t have a major preference between Murray and Raonic, but I’m kind of hoping for Raonic to make it. Djokovic and Murray are a little similar in some ways, and it’s not my favorite matchup. That being said, they’ve had some good matches before. Anyway, should be a good semi, and I hope whoever wins it will have something left for the final.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah, that’s what makes Djokovic impressive. The fact that he overthrew Federer and Nadal all by himself with the perfect balance of offensive and defensive tennis. Against Nadal, his offensive game is more apparent and against Federer his defensive game. He is flexible like that. A new breed of player altogether.

    Coming up in the toughest duopoly tennis has ever seen he could have allowed it to crush him, but instead, he fought through many tough disappointments and losses and used it to make him better. To the point that he is now well on his way to becoming better than them both. That is inspirational.

    I see Murray won in five. He has one day less rest than Djokovic and played a tough match. Like Djokovic needed any help. Murray is pretty fit though so not sure if it will make a difference. Djokovic had the tougher semi-final opponent anyway so he deserves it. Looking forward to seeing whether he can rack up a 6th AO and a 3rd straight slam.

    It must have been a while since that was done…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Check out this quote from Brad Gilbert. He is what I would consider a sophisticated tennis fan and he said this.

    [Reply]

    DaniGirl from Canada Reply:

    Great post by the way, Ru-an. You called it, as you so often do. I am a huge Fedfan, but I am a balanced Fedfan. You can’t deny Novak’s brilliance. I got up at 3:30 am EST (Toronto) to watch the match this morning, and although it was depressing as all hell to watch Federer manhandled around the court, a true tennis fan couldn’t deny the performance Novak put on. As I said to you the other day, I still think the mono and the back issues robbed Federer of some more titles (the mono robbed him of valuable practice time in 2008, and the back issues were more an issue than I think he let on – but I am obviously just speculating the only person who really knows is Federer himself). But that being said Novak is a brilliant master tennis player. Do I want to see him eclipse Roger, NO, but again as a true tennis fan he is unbelievable to watch. I love the above quote from Brad Gilbert who indeed knows his stuff, and I think he is bang on. Personally I think the reason people aren’t as fanatical about Novak as they are about Roger or Rafa has nothing to do with his ability on the court, but more to do with his personality both on and off the court. Remember when his entourage and family wore gaudy t-shirts in his player’s box with Novak’s face silk screened on the front? That was the antithesis of classy. And ripping his shirt off and bellowing at the end of matches? Really low class. And how about gasping for air and struggling to finish matches way back in the day? Not cool. Especially when I found out from those on the inside it was all because he was a huge partier and was often hung over for matches. But he has come a long way, he has really settled down, he has tried hard to win the fans over, and I think he is a great ambassador for the game. Now, for the next semi final. I will definitely be getting up again at 3:30 am to watch Milos/Murray, and will be waving my Canadian flag. In a balanced manner.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thank you, DaniGirl.

    [Reply]

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