Djokovic has tremen­dous re­spect for Fed­erer

Pretoria News - - SPORT - |

DE­FEND­ING cham­pion No­vak Djokovic set up a semi-fi­nal showdown with “Big Three” ri­val Roger Fed­erer at the Aus­tralian Open yes­ter­day with a thump­ing 6-4 6-3 7-6(1) vic­tory over Canada’s hap­less Mi­los Raonic.

Fed­erer saved seven match points in a five-set thriller with Amer­i­can bat­tler Ten­nys Sand­gren only hours be­fore but there was no luck of a se­cond suc­ces­sive bel­ter for the Rod Laver Arena fans, with Djokovic at his ruth­less best.

The crowd will hope for a bet­ter show to­mor­row, when se­cond seed Djokovic re­news his grand slam ri­valry with Fed­erer, six months af­ter fight­ing off match points to beat the Swiss in Wim­ble­don’s long­est ever fi­nal.

“I hope I get to at least one match point in a few days,” Djokovic, who holds a 26-23 edge over Fed­erer, quipped on court af­ter down­ing Raonic.

“Ob­vi­ously (I have) tremen­dous re­spect for Roger, ev­ery­thing he has achieved in the sport – def­i­nitely one of the all-time greats.

“Let the bet­ter player win.” While 38-year-old Fed­erer made heavy weather of world No 100 Sand­gren and was ham­pered by a groin prob­lem, Djokovic’s big­gest trou­ble against Raonic was his con­tact lenses.

He winced in dis­com­fort in the lat­ter part of the match and took a med­i­cal time­out at 4-4 in the third set to fit a fresh pair passed on from his play­ers’ box.

“I want to apol­o­gise to Mi­los once again,” he said.

“It was not in­ten­tional or tac­ti­cal – it was just some­thing that I had to do be­cause those few games I could not re­ally see much and I had to change my lenses.”

Even if blind­folded, Djokovic might still have beaten Raonic, a player he had never lost to in nine pre­vi­ous matches.

Al­though 32nd seed Raonic has long been one of the tour’s most vex­ing servers, his main weapon was re­dun­dant against his op­po­nent’s bril­liant re­turn­ing.

It was mainly down to luck that the ro­botic Cana­dian hung in for a pe­riod, with Djokovic un­able to con­vert eight of nine break points in the first set, in­clud­ing three chances to win it.

The Serb, bid­ding for a record-ex­tend­ing eighth ti­tle at Mel­bourne Park, fi­nally con­verted the fourth set point when Raonic clubbed wide in an 18-shot gun­fight.

The boom­ing Raonic fore­hand with its ex­trav­a­gant wind-up had cut a swath through the draw, but Djokovic made it look de­cid­edly fool­ish as he broke the Cana­dian in the fourth game and roared to a 4-1 lead.

The 16-time grand slam cham­pion paused only briefly to mount a pair of dodgy line chal­lenges be­fore serv­ing out the set.

His fail­ing con­tact lenses took the pol­ish off the third, how­ever, and he barked at dis­trac­tions in the crowd as Raonic saved four break points at 5-5.

That ex­tended the Cana­dian’s Mel­bourne

Park stay only briefly, with all re­sis­tance bro­ken in the one-sided tiebreaker.

Djokovic later grew misty-eyed as he re­mem­bered NBA great Kobe Bryant,

who was killed in a he­li­copter crash near Los An­ge­les on Sun­day along with his 13-year-old daugh­ter and seven oth­ers on board.

“Kobe was one of the great­est ath­letes of all time and in­spired me and many other peo­ple around the world,” said Djokovic, who had KB and a pink heart stitched into his green track­suit top.


NO­VAK DJOKOVIC will re­new his grand slam ri­valry with Roger Fed­erer at the Aus­tralian Open to­mor­row. |

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