Posted: Thursday January 27, 2011 10:15AM ; Updated: Thursday January 27, 2011 12:56PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>INSIDE TENNIS

'Federer upset' is the headline, but Djokovic is undoubtedly the story

Story Highlights

Novak Djokovic won 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-4 over Roger Federer in Thursday's semifinal

It will be the first time since 2003 that Federer won't hold any of the four majors

Djokovic should be the favorite in the final regarless of who wins the other semi

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Novak Djokovic (above) matched his win over Roger Federer in last year's U.S. Open semifinals with another victory Thursday.
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SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim after Roger Federer's 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-4 loss to Novak Djokovic in Thursday's Australian Open semifinals.

What do people waking up to this result need to know about the match?

The story is Novak Djokovic. Yesterday the story was Nadal lost, but it really was an injury issue. This was just Djokovic playing, probably, the match of his life.

Last time he played Federer in a Grand Slam -- in the semifinals of last September's U.S. Open -- it was a great match and also a great fight. He saved match points and ended up winning the match in five sets. But this was just a tremendous performance to eliminate Federer in straight sets.

How big of a surprise is it?

I think big, but not huge. We're talking about the third-best player in the world, so the headline FEDERER UPSET is a little funny; we're not talking about some journeyman. He's beaten Federer not only at the last major, but also at this major. Djokovic was playing well coming in. His clutch serving sort of showed a new look for a player who's been around a while.

Now for the first time in eight years, Federer doesn't hold a single Grand Slam title. The inevitable story is going to be: the luster is fading, he's closing in on 30, etc. But this was really less about him than Djokovic today. Federer didn't even play that badly.

What does the loss mean for Federer's season moving forward?

It felt a little bit like 2010. He wasn't losing in the first round and he wasn't losing to some guy you've scarcely heard of, but he just didn't quite have the usual Federer stuff in the latter rounds of a Slam. It had the same sort of rythym I saw in the Tomas Berdych loss at Wimbledon last year, where you really couldn't fault his play that much and he didn't lose to a slouch of a player, but these were matches he wasn't losing in the prime of his career.

Will Djokovic be the favorite in the men's final no matter who wins Friday's semifinal between Andy Murray and David Ferrer?

He's the highest seed and he's the only one that's ever won a Slam. I don't give Ferrer much of a chance to win two more matches. A Murray-Djokovic final could be fun, but I've got to think Djokovic is the favorite of the remaining three.

That said, if Federer had lost to Gilles Simon in the second round, we've got issues. I don't think he's shedding too many tears -- maybe a few because it's Federer -- over a semifinal loss to the third-ranked player in the world.

What are your thoughts on the tournament at large as it winds down?

This is the first Slam in years that doesn't involve Federer or Nadal in the final, but the changing-of-the-guard theme is probably a little bit faint because of Nadal's injury.

On the women's side, how about Li Na beating Caroline Wozniacki to reach the final? Even if she loses on Saturday, this is the first Slam in a long, long time where I think the women may ultimately outstrip the men. The post-match interview was absolutely classic. And I saw a tweet today from Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal saying a Li Na victory in the final could be a bigger global sports story than the Super Bowl. That someone can even ask that question is something in itself.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim is co-author of the forthcoming book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games Are Won now available for pre-order.

 
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