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The Mighty Have Fallen: Federer, Nadal Ousted

For the first time since the 2005 Australian Open, where Marat Safin was victorious, a major’s trophy will be engraved with a name other than that of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. The projected clash between these two in the Australian final was unceremoniously interrupted by two of the game’s young tikes, Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

If Federer is not one with the tennis gods, he is certainly their favorite son. He has been a constant at the last ten major’s final. From the opening rounds, Federer, the world’s number one, appeared a little out of sort and off his game. In the third round, he needed five sets, since he converted only 5 of 21 break point chances, to fight off a stubborn opponent, Janko Tipsarevic 6-7,7-6,5-7,6-1,10-8. In the Round of 16, Thomas Berdych also proved to be a tough competitor even though Federer escaped with a straights set win 6-4,7-6,6-3. Against James Blake in the quarterfinals, again Federer advanced in straight sets, but it was obvious that Blake had the answers to some of Federer’s shots that were troublesome in the past. Blake broke Federer’s serve a few times, resulting in a far closer match 7-5, 7-6, 6-4 than the latter would have preferred.

Where his colleagues had failed, Djokovic succeeded, beating Federer in the semifinals. The two played in the finals at last year’s U.S Open where Djokovic lost in straight sets; clearly, the moment was overwhelming for the young player. But in Australia, after being initially irritated by his poor play and unsatisfied with his racket tension, (Djokovic switched his gear several times), Novak settled down and broke Federer as he served to secure the first set. From that point on, the dynamics of the match changed as Djokovic continually applied pressure on Roger’s serve and guarded his own. Djokovic, ranked third, was on fire the entire tournament. In fact, up to then, he had won all his matches in straight sets including against Lleyton Hewitt ranked 19 and David Ferrer ranked 5. Overall, Djokovic just looked a few steps faster than Federer, even “borrowing” shots from his opponent’s arsenal. In short, Djokovic made the normally extraordinary play of the world’s number one appear ordinary with a straights set win 7-5,6-3, 7-6. Thus, Djokovic will be making his second consecutive major final appearance.

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