|Roger Federer wipes his face before losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday. (REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic)
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Novak Djokovic moved into the Australian Open final Thursday with a straight-set win over defending champion Roger Federer.
Djokovic, the 2008 champion, posted a 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 6-4 victory and will meet the winner between Andy Murray and David Ferrer in Sunday's title match. Ferrer, who knocked off Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals, and Murray will square off in the other semifinal on Friday.
Sunday's final will be the first at a Grand Slam without Federer or Nadal since the 2008 Australian Open, when Djokovic knocked off the Swiss superstar in the semifinals and went on to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final for his lone major championship crown to date.
Nadal, of course, had won the past three Grand Slam titles before being knocked out by Ferrer on Wednesday. Federer was trying for his 17th Grand Slam title and fifth Aussie Open crown. He will not hold one of the four major titles for the first time since 2003.
"Sure, it's disappointing and it hurts in the moment itself. I wish I could have won here again for the fifth time," said Federer. "But wasn't possible tonight."
After Djokovic prevailed in the first-set tiebreak, Federer opened a 5-2 lead in the second set. He didn't win another game for the rest of the set.
Djokovic stormed back to win five straight for a two-set lead and broke serve early in the third. Federer, however, broke back to square it at 4-4 only to watch the Serb again break for a 5-4 edge. He went on to hold to finish the match.
"I had to take my chances," said Djokovic. "The second set I was a break up and in 20 minutes I was 5-2 down. If I would lose that second set, God knows which direction the match would go."
Instead, Djokovic will play in a Grand Slam final for the fourth time. He also beat Federer last year in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing to Nadal in the title match. His other major championship final loss came against Federer in the 2007 U.S. Open.
"Already [in the] final is a great result, great achievement," added Djokovic. "I want to win it again. I believe I can. Hopefully I can pull up the best tennis."
The 23-year-old Djokovic, who helped Serbia to the Davis Cup crown in December, is 18-13 all-time in title matches.
"To be able to have [the Davis Cup] in the back of your mind is a big advantage coming into the season," Djokovic noted. "I had that motivation and confidence from the big success that we had and playing really well. So I just continued on. I knew that these two weeks are the most important. This is where I want to play my best tennis and I was setting up my form exactly for this tournament. Paid off."
Djokovic owns a record of 4-3 against Murray and 5-4 against Ferrer. He hasn't played Murray since the final of the Miami Masters in 2009, a 6-2, 7-5 victory for the Scot. Murray has won the last three meetings, but the two have never played in a Grand Slam tournament. Djokovic beat Ferrer in the Beijing final last year and he has also won the two previous meetings in Grand Slam events, including a 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 pounding in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Australian Open.
Murray is trying to reach his third Grand Slam final and is still in search of that elusive first major crown. He lost to Federer in last year's Aussie Open title match and was also beaten by the Swiss superstar in the 2008 U.S. Open finale.
Ferrer has never been to a Grand Slam final. His best previous result was a loss to Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2007 U.S. Open.