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Djokovic takes full advantage of wounded rival Federer

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Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP

Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP

AP

Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP

After a tournament of coruscating five-setters, yesterday's meeting between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer - the two most successful men in the Australian Open's history - should have been another humdinger.

It probably would have been, had Federer arrived feeling chipper. He had been personally responsible for a couple of those earlier thrillers, and thus walked onto the court with a wounded groin.

The result was a phoney war. Federer came out swinging, finding his mark on a series of beautiful backhands that carried him into a 4-1 first-set lead.

But Djokovic later admitted that he had forgotten to focus on his own tennis at this stage. He was instead keeping half an eye on Federer's movement.

"I had been told by the team to prioritise my own things rather than thinking about how he's feeling or how he's going to move," Djokovic said after fighting his way to a 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

"At the beginning, I was paying too much attention on his movement. I wasn't in the right balance. I wasn't hitting the ball.

"He was hurting. You could see it in his movement. I know how it feels when you're hurt. I know the thoughts that go through your mind, whether or not you should continue. I think it's an amazing fact that he has never retired, not a single match, throughout his career. Huge respect for that."

Courageous

"I went for a scan that same night," Federer said, in reference to his faltering yet courageous win over Tennys Sandgren in Tuesday's quarter-final.

"Today was horrible, to go through what I did. Nice entrance, nice send-off, and in between is one to forget. I felt like at least it was probably not going to get worse. If it did, this would have been my first retirement. We did talk about it with the team, how bad is it allowed to feel. It never went there, so that's good. But you're playing careful, obviously."

So Djokovic continued his progress to an eighth Australian Open final, where he will play the winner of today's second semi-final between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev.

Both have beaten him on an indoor hard court over the past couple of seasons, so the result of the tournament is not yet a formality. But it should also be noted that Djokovic has never lost a final on Rod Laver Arena.

He has beaten Murray in four trophy matches, Rafael Nadal in two and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the odd one out, when he was still only 20.

In other words, Djokovic's prospects of a 17th major title - and a return to World No 1 - are so bright that he had better wear shades. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk