Dubai: Novak Djokovic took little time to grind down long-time rival Roger Federer in straight sets and book his place in the Australian Open final on Thursday.
The Serbian second seed overpowered No. 3 Federer 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 to set up a Grand Slam showdown against one of two pretenders to the throne of the ‘Big 3’ of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.
Alex Zverev takes on Dominic Thiem in Friday’s second semi-final at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
But it was a tale of the veterans on Thursday and they did not disappoint — serving up a classic in their 50th career clash.
There were still plenty of nerves on show despite the experience both players have under their belts, with both players dropping serve twice in the opener before Djokovic prevailed 7-1 in the tiebreaker, following a medical time-out for the struggling Federer.
Djokovic is going for his eighth Australian Open title and has never lost a semi-final at Melbourne Park, but he was under pressure early from six-time champion Federer.
Two nights after saving seven match points against Tennys Sandgren, Federer was in the driving seat to take the first set as he was serving at 5-4. But never-say-die Djokovic broke him to love.
The second set went with serve until Federer again faltered at the business end and was broken in the final game to put Djokovic firmly in command.
It was all Djokovic in the third set as he stormed away with the set against a fading and clearly hurting Federer and into his 26th Grand Slam final.
"Roger was obviously hurt and credit to him for coming out and playing so well," said Djokovic. "He was obviously hurt and wasn't close to this best in terms of movement. At the start I was looking more at what he was doing than what I was doing but I managed to dig myself back into it. It was very important to do that.
"I knew he'd try to mix it up and come to the net but I tried to stay with him in the rallies and move him around instead."
A sombre Federer said: "Today was horrible, to go through what I did.
"Nice entrance, nice sendoff, and in between is one to forget because you know you have a 3% chance to win.
"You know, got to go for it. You never know. But once you can see it coming, that it's not going to work anymore, it's tough."