Djokovic-Federer semi will be like a final

Djokovic expecting 'great fight' in semi-final against Federer, who feels he can beat anyone

EVEN STEVENS: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (above) and No. 3 Roger Federer are locked at 22-22 in 
their head-to-head record.
EVEN STEVENS: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (above) and No. 3 Roger Federer are locked at 22-22 in 
their head-to-head record.

Novak Djokovic hammered an off-key Kei Nishikori and Roger Federer put on a masterclass against Tomas Berdych, as they set up a dream semi-final at the Australian Open yesterday.

Defending champion Djokovic recovered strongly from his five-set struggle against Gilles Simon as he ousted Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, after Federer swept aside Berdych 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-4.

Djokovic is seeking his 11th Grand Slam title while Federer, 34, is looking to extend his record tally to 18 - and both will want to take charge of their head-to-head, which is locked at 22-22.

"Any round (against Federer) feels like a final because we are, you know, big rivals, we played so many times against each other," Djokovic said.

"There's a lot of tension. There's a lot at stake. I'm expecting a great fight in two days."

Both players will have a close eye on today's quarter-finals pitting Andy Murray against David Ferrer and Milos Raonic against Gael Monfils.

FAVOURITE

Djokovic will start as favourite against Federer, after he beat him in the Wimbledon and US Open finals last year on his way to winning three Grand Slam titles and finishing runner-up at the French Open.

The Serb made 100 unforced errors and was pushed all the way in last Sunday's five-set struggle with Simon, but he said a day away from tennis had done him the world of good.

"I didn't practise yesterday. I didn't hit a tennis ball," he said.

"It happens sometimes, it's actually good to rest your mind, rest your body. Less is more sometimes."

Tomorrow's semi-final promises to be a test of Djokovic's continued dominance of men's tennis, after his achievement in losing only one Grand Slam match last season.

In a sign of the pair's hold on men's tennis, Federer is into his 39th Grand Slam semi-final, while Djokovic has 29.

They were both on court for a little over two hours yesterday.

Djokovic hit only 11 groundstroke winners in disposing of Nishikori, who made a total of 54 unforced errors and had his service broken six times.

"Today was more about my game. I was missing too much, especially first couple of sets. Lost many easy games," said Nishikori, who was also troubled by a leg injury.

"I couldn't make him work hard today. I mean, yes, he played good. But I couldn't play good tennis today."

HIGH HOPES

Earlier, Federer reached his 12th Australian Open semi-final in 13 years with a clinical straight-set win over Berdych in two hours and 16 minutes.

The Swiss has high hopes he can add a fifth Australian Open title, even though his last Grand Slam success was back at Wimbledon in 2012.

"It means a lot. It's part of the reason why I'm still playing," Federer said.

"I feel like I'm competitive at the top. I can beat all the guys on tour.

"It's nice now that in the last three Slams I've been as consistent as I have been."

Federer said he was enjoying his tennis after adding former world No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic to his coaching team, along with long-time mentor Severin Luthi.

"I'm playing good tennis, fun tennis for me anyway. I really enjoy being able to come to the net more like back in the day.

"So I'm very pleased. It would mean a lot to me (to win more Slams), no doubt about it."

Federer had few concerns against the strong-serving Berdych and extended his career record to 16-6 to deny the Czech a third straight semi-final appearance in Melbourne. - AFP.

MEN'S SINGLES Q-FINALS

  • Novak Djokovic (x1) bt Kei Nishikori (x7) 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
  • Roger Federer (x3) bt Tomas Berdych (x6) 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4

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1ST-ROUND QUALIFIER

MOHUN BAGAN v 
TAMPINES ROVERS

(Tonight, 9.30pm, Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata)

The weather in Kolkata may be cooler than they expected, with the temperature this evening said to range between 15 and 20 deg C.

But Tampines Rovers coach V Sundramoorthy expects his team to go for the win in their first competitive match of the season - the first-round Asian Football Confederation Champions League qualifier against Indian champions Mohun Bagan.

In a telephone interview from India, the 50-year-old former Singapore international said: "It is a beautiful weather to play football.

"When I was playing for FC Basel (in Switzerland) in this weather, we just needed an extra layer underneath our jerseys.

"The boys are also experienced, with some of them having played in similar conditions in Japan before.

HEADSTART

"And, although our opponents have already started their season while we are technically in pre-season mode, we will do our best and try to win the game."

Extreme cold weather the last few days has hit several countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand.

India has not been spared, with fog descending on the capital New Delhi, and temperatures dropping in Kolkata over the past week.

With nine former LionsXII players and the signing of ex-Arsenal and Liverpool player Jermaine Pennant - who is not registered in time for this game - the Stags are expected to do well this season.

But the "Dazzler" shrugs off talk of added pressure on him and his team.

He said: "There's not really any much more pressure, I am looking for a good performance tomorrow.

"In football, anything can happen, but we will do our best."

Sundram expects Mohun Bagan's foreign imports, such as former LA Galaxy striker Cornell Glen, as well as wingers Sony Nerde (Haiti) and Katsumi Yusa (Japan) to be big threats to the Stags defence.

Glen, who played for Trinidad and Tobago at the 2006 World Cup, was on target last Saturday. Scoring his fourth goal in three games, the 34-year-old equalised for Mohun Bagan in a 1-1 draw with East Bengal.

Sundram said: "We really need to settle into the game in the first 20 minutes. If we can do that, we should be okay after that."

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