Djokovic Ready For ‘Big Effort’ Against Federer
Defending champion looks ahead to semi-final in Melbourne
When Novak Djokovic steps onto court at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday night, he will be prepared to push himself to the limit against Roger Federer.
The two rivals, who own a combined 13 Australian Open crowns, will meet for the 50th time in their ATP Head2Head rivalry (Djokovic leads 26-23) with a place in the final on the line.
No man knows what it takes to beat Federer at this stage better than Djokovic, having defeated Federer to reach finals at Melbourne Park in 2008, 2011 and 2016. But the seven-time champion is well aware of the threat Federer possesses. Federer ended Djokovic’s hopes of finishing 2019 as the year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in their most recent meeting, beating the Serbian in straight sets at last year’s Nitto ATP Finals in London.
“I know that whenever we get a chance to play each other, we understand it takes a big effort and it's required from us to come up with the best game in order to win against each other,” said Djokovic.
“At Wimbledon last year, he had two match points, he was one shot away from winning that match. It's not like I've been dominating the matchups. I've had success against him, in Grand Slams in particular.
“But Roger is Roger. You know that he's always going to play on such a high level, regardless of the surface. He loves to play these kind of matches, big rivalries, semi-finals, finals of Grand Slams.”
Djokovic will also be wary of the battling qualities of his opponent. Federer was two points from defeat at 4/8 down in a final-set tie-break against John Millman in the third round and saved seven match points to overcome Tennys Sandgren in the quarter-finals.
“What he did today was really amazing,” said Djokovic. “To come back and save seven match points at his age, I mean, he's still playing such a great [level of] tennis and proving that he deserves to be up there. He's a great fighter. Obviously, I have lots of respect for him.”
Djokovic has continued to improve throughout his time at the year’s opening Grand Slam. The 32-year-old has won 13 consecutive sets since dropping the third set in his first-round match against Jan-Lennard Struff.
“I've been feeling well on the court… I've been building I think as the time passes by, in every match, I have more confidence, I feel better,” said Djokovic.
“This is my favorite court, I mean, the court where I had the most success in my career. Hopefully things can come together for me in a positive way on Thursday and I can have a chance to win.”
Djokovic has started the 2020 ATP Tour season in strong form, highlighted by his run to the inaugural ATP Cup trophy as a member of Team Serbia. One of the key components of the 16-time Grand Slam champion’s successful start to the year has been his serve. Since the start of his second-round match, Djokovic has only faced six break points, dropping serve once to Diego Schwartzman.
“I feel that my serve this year so far in ATP Cup and also Australian Open has been terrific. It allowed me to win a lot of free points,” said Djokovic. “When I'm serving well and getting a high percentage of first serves in, it allows me to feel more comfortable, more confident, kind of step in and play at the higher level of tennis.
“We worked a lot in the off-season on my serve. I'm feeling great. I have a great rhythm… In terms of the way I've been serving now, it has been some of the best serving I've had in my career, for sure.”
Djokovic also discussed the recent announcement that his coach, 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall Of Fame on 18 July. Ivanisevic, the first Croatian to receive the honour, lifted 22 titles and won 599 matches at tour-level.
“Congratulations my dear coach, for getting into the Hall of Fame. He deserves it and is a legend of our sport,” said Djokovic. “I’ve known him since I was 12 years old. We go back to Germany at the Nikola Pilic Tennis Academy, where he was preparing for his Wimbledon title. I was amazed to have the opportunity to be with him and hit. We have always had a friendly relationship. I am honoured to have him in my team.”
Tennis is the not the only sport where Djokovic has enjoyed the mentorship of past legends. The Serbian often received sporting advice from NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. In tribute to his friend, Djokovic wore a special jacket on court with the LA Lakers star’s initials and jersey numbers.
“It really caught us by surprise. He was one of the greatest athletes of all time,” said Djokovic. “He inspired myself and others around the world.
”I had a personal relationship with him over the past 10 years. When I needed advice and support, he was there for me. It’s heart-breaking to see and hear what has happened to him, his daughter and the other families.”