Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have set up a blockbuster Australian Open semi-final, both players emerging in contrasting styles on Tuesday,
While defending champion Novak Djokovic was ruthless in powering past Canadian Milos Raonic, Roger Federer was simply lucky to escape defeat from unseeded American Tennys Sandgren. The Swiss ace saved an incredible seven match points to stage a miraculous in great escape. He himself admitted he won the match via miracle,similar to how he defeated Australian John Millman in the fourth round.
The Serbian world number two, despite trouble with his contact lenses, tamed the big-serving Canadian 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) as he targets an eighth Melbourne Park crown and 17th Grand Slam title.
Federer has six Australian Open trophies.
The 38-year-old great, the oldest man to reach the Melbourne semis since Ken Rosewall 43 years ago, came through an action-packed clash 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.
He fended off seven match points and was slapped with a warning for swearing, while taking a rare medical timeout for a groin injury that hampered his movement.
But he dug deep to set up yet another showdown with his old rival Djokovic. The pair are all-conquering in Melbourne, sharing 12 of the last 14 titles between them.
They have played each other 49 times, with the Serb in front 26-23.
“I have tremendous respect for Roger,” said Djokovic, who became emotional in his on-court interview when asked about the tragic death in a helicopter crash of Kobe Bryant, a personal friend.
“The match-ups I have had against Roger and Rafa (Nadal) have made me the player I am today,” he added. “May the best player win.”
While Federer — into a record 15th Australian Open semi — has laboured through 14 sets in his last three matches, Djokovic has had a much easier ride, dropping just one set all tournament.
But the world number three Swiss star insisted he felt fine.
“It really depends sometimes how you’re feeling inside, how much it takes away from you. But I must say I feel pretty good right now,” said the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
His comeback against Sandgren was the stuff of legend, with the victory his 102nd at Melbourne Park, surpassing his tally at Wimbledon to make the Australian Open his most successful Slam in terms of matches won.
After comfortably taking the first set, he felt the groin strain midway through the second. He wasn’t moving well and making too many errors.
He took a medical timeout but lost the set and the next one.
But he seemed to get a second wind and saved four match points at 5-4 down in the fourth set and another three to win the tie-breaker. Then he romped to victory in the fifth set as the adoring crowd went into a frenzy.
Federer admitted he was “incredibly lucky” to still be in the tournament, but he planned to make the most if it.