Novak Djokovic praises Roger Federer for playing through groin problems: 'Respect'



Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic met for the 50th time in their careers, but Thursday’s Australian Open semifinal match was nothing like the last time these two greats faced off in a Grand Slam tournament.

Despite a dominant start from Federer with a 4-1, 40-0 lead in the first set, he began to fall apart, and Djokovic took over, winning the match 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-3. While Djokovic’s run to his eighth Aussie Open final — he’s never lost in this major after advancing to the championship match — has been far from dramatic, the opposite is true for Federer.

Two of the 38-year-old Swiss player’s last three matches going into the semifinal were five-set comeback victories filled with tiebreakers, and in the quarterfinals against American Tennys Sandgren, he was dealing with some groin and leg issues. And he was clearly still having some problems against Djokovic, who gave his opponent credit for a hard-fought match.

In Djokovic’s on-court interview afterward, he said:

“Well, it could have definitely gone a different way if he used those break points. He started off really well. I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I just want to say respect to Roger for coming out tonight. He was obviously hurt and wasn’t at his best — even close to his best — in terms of movement. And respect for coming out and trying his best all the way through.”

After Federer’s quarterfinal win, he said, via Reuters: “I don’t know if you can call it an injury. It’s just pain and problems.”

Djokovic’s victory Thursday night in Melbourne, or very early in the morning on the East Coast, extended his all-time lead over Federer to 27-23 and 11-6 in Grand Slams.

Although he won in straight sets this time, when he and Federer met at Wimbledon in 2019, they stunned sports fans with a nearly five-hour, five set match with multiple tiebreakers before the 32-year-old Serbian player eventually won, 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 13-12 (7-3).

When Djokovic, who is playing for his 17th Grand Slam win, was asked how Federer has made him a better player over the years, he praised Federer as well as Rafael Nadal, who lost in the quarterfinals to Dominic Thiem on Wednesday. Djokovic said:

“I hope I made him [a] 20 percent better player than what he did to me and my tennis and my career. Of course, he’s one of my two biggest rivals throughout my life. I’ve played the most matches at the Grand Slams against Rafa and Roger, so these two guys have definitely made a significant difference in my mind and understanding my own game and what it takes to really win against them.

“At the beginning, I remember when I won my first Grand Slam title here in 2008, after that, it was three very tough years for me because every time I would get to a big match finals or semis of [a] Grand Slam, I would lose to one of these two guys. It took a lot of thinking and a lot of belief, and of course a lot of work, to perfect the game and challenge those guys on the biggest stage.”

Djokovic also won the 2019 Australian Open and his seven titles is a record in the open era. Should he win again Sunday, he’ll earn his first back-to-back Aussie Open trophy since 2015-2016.

He’ll play the winner of the Thiem-Alexander Zverev semifinal, which is Friday evening in Melbourne (3:30 a.m. ET).

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Via OverwatchWire


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