A chance to play for the 2016 Australian Open final will be at stake on Thursday in Melbourne when No. 1-seed Novak Djokovic and No. 3-seed Roger Federer meet for the 45th time in their storied careers.
Their head-to-head record remains level, with each winning 22 of 44 matches. Djokovic beat Federer in the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals and in the ATP Finals title match last season. Federer last beat Djokovic in a round robin match at the ATP Finals in London and before that, in the final of the Cincinnati Masters in August 2015.
Federer has not won Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012, while Djokovic won three of the four major titles in 2015.
Djokovic, a five-time Australian Open champion, has won 37 of his last 38 matches in Melbourne while Federer, a four-time Australian Open champion, lost in the third round here last year.
It’s safe to say their clash in the semifinals will feel more like a championship match.
“Any round feels like finals because of the fact that 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.”
After becoming the first man to earn 300 Grand Slam victories last week—and adding two more with wins over David Goffin and Tomas Berdych—Federer said that winning another major still means a lot to him.
“It's part of the reason why I guess I'm still playing,” he 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 that I've been as consistent as I have been.”
Federer said that he is playing “fun tennis,” making more net approaches and adding new weapons to his game while also channeling some strategies from "back in the day." Djokovic said he’s aware of how his opponent’s game has evolved over their 10-year history.
“You have to be on the top of your game because he hasn't really dropped the level at all I think in the last seven, eight years that I've been playing against him on the top level,” Djokovic said. “He's trying lately to come to the net more, kind of shorten up the rallies. He's got a great variation from the backhand side with the slice, short slice. He's got great defense, amazing offense. He's very complete. He puts constant pressure on the opponent. You have to be aware at all times. You got to be tough. You got to be concentrated.
Djokovic also acknowledged that competing with Federer and Rafael Nadal has helped him to elevate his own game.
“I think these rivalries have allowed me to grow and to evolve and to get strong and tough and understand what it takes to be on the level that they are on,” Djokovic said. “You know, Roger is playing really terrific tennis in last two years. 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.”