MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer is the first to admit
he pays a steep price for all his success. One by one, players try
to knock him off, and with each match and each victory expectations
"Of course, I've created a monster," he said. "So I know I
need to always win every tournament."
For one rare night, the monster was tamed.
Federer lost to Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (5) Friday in the
Australian Open semifinals, leaving the top-ranked Swiss one match
short of making an 11th consecutive Grand Slam final.
"Winning every other week, you know, lose a set and people say
I'm playing bad," Federer said. "So it's my own mistake, I
Djokovic will now play unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on
Sunday, setting up one unlikely title match. The women settle their
championship Saturday when Maria Sharapova faces Ana Ivanovic.
Djokovic was 1-6 against Federer going into the match, losing
most recently in the U.S. Open final. Federer was in his 15th
straight Grand Slam semifinal.
"I am just very amazed I coped with the pressure today,"
Djokovic said. "In the most important moments, I played my best
tennis. It's just amazing, indescribable, to beat the No. 1 player
of the world, one of the best players this sport has ever had, in
Rafael Nadal, the only player to beat Federer in the previous 10
majors, was thumped 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 by Tsonga, whose looks have been
likened to Muhammad Ali's and his game with Yannick Noah's.
Djokovic, seeded third, will be a big favorite Sunday after
making the semifinals at four straight majors and having been to
the U.S. Open final. Tsonga is in his fifth Grand Slam and past the
fourth round for the first time.
Djokovic said he drew on his experience in his U.S. Open final
loss to Federer, knowing the pressure was mounting on his rival
after such an imperious run.
"As one of the top players in the world, you always have a lot
of expectations and a lot of pressure on your back," Djokovic
said. "He's a special case because he's expected to win everywhere
he goes on any surface."
Djokovic went out with the same intent against Federer that
Tsonga had against Nadal. The loss for Nadal was his worst since
the 2004 U.S. Open -- Federer's was his worst since the 2004 French
Federer had the chance to serve for the first set at 5-3, but
missed. His missed some touch volleys and he missed some forehands
that usually are his trademark.
Djokovic broke twice to win that set and twice more to get to
5-1 in the second in an 11-game sequence that changed the match.
"I was able to deal with the pressure in the best possible way.
And if you do that against the best player in the world, you should
get the positive outcome," Djokovic said. "I'm very happy that in
crucial moments my serve was serving me, and it was probably my
best element in the game."
The 20-year-old Serb said it's important for tennis to shake
"The dominance of Federer and Nadal was just amazing the last
couple of years," he said. "So I think it's great for tennis
lovers all around the world to see something new."
Federer's last straight-sets losses at the Australian Open were
in the first rounds in both 2000 and 2001 to Arnaud Clement.
Clement and fellow Frenchman Michael Llodra are in the doubles
final Saturday against Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.
That doubles final follows the women's championship between No.
5 Sharapova and No. 4 Ivanovic, Djokovic's Serbian compatriot.
Sharapova, who lost last year's final 6-1, 6-2 to Serena
Williams, is favored to win a third Grand Slam title. She has not
dropped a set in six wins, including a quarterfinal victory that
ended top-ranked Justine Henin's 32-match winning streak and a
semifinal against No. 3 Jelena Jankovic.
Ivanovic is in her second final in four majors after a three-set
win over Daniela Hantuchova, when she rallied after losing the
first eight games.
The women's doubles champions were crowned Friday when Ukrainian
sisters Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko downed Victoria Azarenka and
Shahar Peer a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Federer had been seeking his third consecutive Australian title.
A victory would have pulled him within one championship of Pete
Sampras' record of 14 majors.
His preparation was hampered by a stomach illness that forced
him out of his regular tuneup at the Kooyong exhibition event, and
he never appeared at his authoritative best.
He was taken to 10-8 in the fifth set but was able to survive
the third round over another Serb, Janko Tipsarevic.
But Djokovic never
let the Swiss get settled. He reeled off 13 aces and 50 winners and
held serve when a break would have changed momentum.
Not holding serve for the first set "cost me the match,"
"You can't always play your best," Federer said. "I've won,
many, many times when I didn't expect myself to win. So tonight is
one of those nights where you're a little bit disappointed. But
it's going to go over and I'm going to look forward to the rest of
Federer rubbed his eyes frequently and was subdued in his news
"There is no doubt I have played better before," he said.
Djokovic said he knows he's expected to win the final, based on
experience and rankings. Tsonga was ranked No. 43 at the end of
"Tsonga is coming up," he said. "He's just an amazing athlete
and has been performing some impressive tennis in these two weeks,
as I did. I didn't lose even a set here in Australian Open, which
is amazing. Obviously, we will not have anything to lose. It's
finals, so anything can happen."