The semi-finals everyone wanted is finally upon us. The two most successful men of the century at the Australian Open will square off against each other for the 45th time. The world number one Novak Djokovic dominated the field last year while the Roger Federer, currently ranked third in the world, was the only one who challenged the Serbian consistently throughout the year.
Based on the results from last 12 months, it was hard not to see Djokovic as the overwhelming favourite heading into this Slam. Federer and Murray were the next two favourites but they were well below the Serb according to the experts. Then we had former champs, Nadal and Wawrinka, but both of them have been knocked out before the quarterfinal stage.
However, over these 10 days, the form shown by the top 3 contenders for the men’s crown have been slightly different. Murray began the tournament knowing that he would have to leave for the birth of his child
Murray probably began the tournament slightly distracted with the thoughts of the impending birth of his child. It didn’t help his emotional state of mind that his father in law collapsed a few days ago and had to be rushed to the hospital (he is alright now). Djokovic was mostly solid except for a terrible match against Simon where he committed 100 unforced errors but still managed to win the match. Federer probably had the toughest draw but he went through all his opponents so far without breaking too much sweat and dropping only a single set.
And so we are here for the first semi featuring Djokovic and Federer. The duo has 9 Australian Open titles between them and most likely one of them will make it 10 by Sunday. Last year’s form suggests that the Serb will take this one in a memorable tussle. Even though Federer has been more impressive in Melbourne so far, it is difficult for him (or anyone else for that matter) to sustain that same level against Novak. We have seen it many times in the last 2 years where Federer would come pretty much roaring through the draw only to be thwarted by Djokovic at the final hurdle. Playing at night won’t help him ether as the conditions would be much slower and that only plays into the hands of the world number one.
The keys for a Federer win would be for the Swiss Maestro to have an exceptional serving day, like the one he had against Murray at Wimbledon last year. And then be ultra-aggressive on rallies but keep the unforced errors to a minimum. Yeah, a fine line, but if anyone can do it, it would be Federer. He will bring his net play also into the mix and against Djokovic, it will be tricky but a gamble Federer has to take to end points early and on his own terms. Of course, Djokovic having an off day would also be welcome but we all know that is as common as a solar eclipse.
By now you would have guessed that I want Roger Federer to win. But I also know that Djokovic is the safer bet. But then again, it would be a bet I am happy to lose.