World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will face Roger Federer in a blockbuster semi-final clash at the Australian Open after dismissing Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday night in Melbourne. Djokovic and Federer will clash for the 45th time on Thursday at Melbourne Park, with their FedEx ATP Head2Head series balanced at 22-22. Djokovic has prevailed in their past three Grand Slam contests.
“Roger is playing really terrific tennis in the past two years,” said Djokovic. “We played two Grand Slam finals last year. I know very well how good he plays, especially in the later stages of a major event.
“He always makes you play your best. My best is what is going to be necessary to win against him. Hopefully I’ll be able to deliver.” The 28-year-old Djokovic is through to his 29th Grand Slam semi-final and sixth at Melbourne Park, where he has lifted the trophy five times. The Belgrade native lifted his first major trophy Down Under in 2008, with victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and followed up with titles in 2011 (d. Murray, 2012 (d. Nadal), 2013 (d. Murray) and 2015 (d. Murray).
Djokovic is bidding to join Roy Emerson as only the second man to win the Australian Open six times. Djokovic swept past Nishikori in two hours and seven minutes. The Serb made the decisive breakthrough in the sixth game of the opener, in which Nishikori had led 40/0, and went on to close out the set in 32 minutes, holding from 0/30 in the ninth game.
Djokovic carried his momentum into the second set and benefitted from more wayward forehands from Nishikori to break immediately. Nishikori came close to working his way back into the match, but was thwarted on two break points in the following game. The Japanese held from 0/40 in the third game, but was broken again in the fifth game and could not stop Djokovic from serving out the set in the eighth game, despite holding three break points.
Nishikori twice led by a service break in the third set, but both times could not sustain his high level and aggression. Djokovic made him pay for the unforced errors, which ultimately amounted to 54, and broke the Japanese star in the seventh game before going on to close out victory. Djokovic now leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 6-2, with Nishikori’s last victory over the Serb coming in the 2014 US Open semi-finals.
“I tried to weather the storm, hang in there,” said Djokovic, who had been pushed to five sets by Gilles Simon in the fourth round. “He came up and played the first couple games very fast, very quick. Took the ball early, being very aggressive from both corners. I expected that.
“I was solid. I was determined, focused. In important points and moments I managed to stay composed and make him play an extra shot. Overall it was a very solid performance. “At this level you’re always asking a lot from yourself. I have to be satisfied. I’ve reached the semi-finals. I won against a Top 10 player in straight sets. Compared to the fourth-round match, this was much better. That makes me confident and encourages me for the next one.”
Djokovic has won 36 of his past 37 matches and is currently on a 13-match winning streak. The Serb lost only six matches last season (82-6 record) and claimed 11 titles, including three majors at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He fell just short of completing the calendar Grand Slam, finishing runner-up to Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros championship match.
“I was missing too much, especially in the first couple of sets,” said Nishikori. “I lost many easy games. I couldn’t make him work hard today. He played good. But I couldn’t play good tennis today. I had some chances in the third set, but couldn’t keep up my level. Really disappointed for my game. But he played good tennis.”