Every time Roger Federer loses to Novak Djokovic at a Grand Slam, his mind will surely wander back to Wimbledon last summer and the one that got away.
If only Federer had taken his chances at SW19, there would still be clear blue water between them when it comes to who ends up with the most Grand Slam titles.
Federer was physically below his best in their Australian Open semi-final, which he lost 7-6, 6-4, 6-3, but he expects to be fit to make his next game, the ‘Match For Africa’ against Rafael Nadal in Cape Town a week today.
Rodger Federer was ruthlessly beaten by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals
As time ticks down on the Swiss’ career, Djokovic is closing in on his Grand Slam record
After the final, the Serb will most probably have moved on to 17 Grand Slam victories
Played at the city’s football stadium, they intend to break the record for a tennis match attendance, with 52,000 expected to attend the charity fundraiser.
By then the chances are that the 32-year-old Serb will have moved ominously up to 17 majors by winning the Australian Open on Sunday, just three behind Federer and his ageing frame.
Only Dominic Thiem or Federer protege Alex Zverev stand between Djokovic and an eighth title at Melbourne Park, with the two relative youngsters duelling it out this morning.
Last summer, Djokovic moved closer to Federer’s record by beating him in the Wimbledon final
The 38-year-old Swiss is not the only one looking over his shoulder, with Nadal stuck on 19. They are unlikely to be discussing the numbers when they meet up in South Africa.
If anyone is going to keep the scores as they are between the Big Three it is Thiem, whose brutal power from the baseline could just unsettle Djokovic. Andy Murray, above anyone, can attest to the size of the task that lies ahead for whoever plays him.
Four times he faced the Serb in an Australian final and each time he came up short against a player born for these conditions.
Worryingly for his rivals, Djokovic might still be getting better, having recruited Goran Ivanisevic to his support team to help beef up his serve, which has not always been his strongest suit.
Djokovic seems to be only getting better, something the Swiss has even admitted himself
Federer, who went off court after a promising first set for treatment on his lower back/groin area, reflected later on the fact that his opponent’s second serve has quickened up.
‘He has definitely had ups and downs throughout his career with his serve,’ said Federer.
‘Right now it looks very good. He did have problems with double faults at some point, he had the elbow issue. When he came back, he didn’t hit his spots very well. Now he’s got them all back. It looks very solid.’
Although Federer went for his shots at the start to race to a 4-1 lead, it was unlikely to last, and he did not enjoy this 50th meeting. ‘Today was horrible, to go through what I did,’ said Federer. ‘Nice entrance, nice send-off, and in between is one to forget because you know you have a three per cent chance to win.’
The Swiss described his convincing 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat in Melbourne as ‘horrible’
Federer expects, all things being equal, to be back playing in Australia next year, but if he is going to add to his Grand Slam tally it would have to be at Wimbledon this summer.Asked if that was the case, and where his best chance lies, he replied sardonically: ‘Halle or Basle (the ATP Tour events), less matches to play.’
Federer and Djokovic do not have a warm relationship, but Djokovic was impressed Federer had given it a try after gruelling matches in the past week.
Federer’s proud record of never having retired remains intact ‘Respect to Roger for coming out tonight. He was obviously hurt and wasn’t at his best in terms of his movement,’ he said.
Of his battle with the other two for the most Grand Slams, he added: ‘I’m going to try my best to prolong our domination in the Grand Slam as much as possible. I’m sure Roger and Rafa would agree.’ Well, possibly.
With Melbourne temperatures soaring after this strange month of weather, Zverev and Thiem are due to play at 8.30am, UK time. Thiem won their last Grand Slam meeting, at Roland Garros two years ago, for the loss of just seven games.