Dominic Thiem has shown the highly rated 'Next Gen' the way, though the rest of the Australian Open finalist's generation provides a cautionary tale.

Thiem's rise continues in Melbourne, where he will face Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final on Sunday in his third major decider and first away from the French Open.

But the 26-year-old Austrian sits in a generation alone; more established than the improving 'Next Gen' but still – like all others – chasing Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini, Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur can learn from Thiem's progression, while Daniil Medvedev, 23, has quickly proven himself.

Zverev, beaten by good friend Thiem in the semi-finals, admitted this week he had been impatient in his pursuit of grand slam success. The German is the world number seven and Melbourne shaped as a breakthrough, a new approach helping the 22-year-old into a first major semi.

Thiem only won his first Tour title at 21, with his next three also coming at ATP 250 level before he took another step by clinching the Mexican Open in February 2016.

A reputation on clay being quickly established, he reached a semi-final at Roland Garros later that year – and another in 2017. Thiem shapes as the successor to Nadal's immovable crown in Paris, falling to the Spanish great in the past two finals.

It has been steady growth, although the improvement on hard courts has been particularly impressive, including a title at Indian Wells last year.

Patiently working, Thiem has risen to be being one win away from a breakthrough major, and his journey can be looked at by what is a supremely talented up-and-coming group.

Zverev won the 2018 ATP Finals, but it is last year's event in London that is set to be looked upon as the moment the 'Next Gen' truly made their move. Tsitsipas and Thiem played out a thrilling final, the former having beaten Federer in a semi and the latter posted wins over Djokovic and the Swiss great in the group stage.

Thiem is the only 26-year-old in the world's top 50 and just one of five in the top 100, joined by Juan Ignacio Londero, Hugo Dellien, Roberto Carballes Baena and Dennis Novak.

He was once a world number two junior and reached the 2011 French Open boys' singles final, falling to Bjorn Fratangelo.

A quick look at that year's boys' singles quarter-finals at all grand slams makes for interesting viewing. Kyle Edmund and Lucas Pouille have made Australian Open semi-finals, Jiri Vesely once reached 35th in the world, Carballes Baena is among them, as is the injury-plagued Jason Kubler and doubles star Mate Pavic.

Before Thiem takes to the court to face Djokovic, Luke Saville – a two-time slam winner as a junior – will play the men's doubles final. A highly rated junior, Saville beat Thiem in the juniors at the Australian Open in 2011 but has struggled to take the step up.

The current 'Next Gen' have already been more impressive and now they have Thiem to follow.

Dylan Alcott claimed a record-extending sixth consecutive Australian Open men's quad wheelchair singles title.

Popular Australian and top seed Alcott maintained his dominance in Melbourne with a 6-0 6-4 victory over Andy Lapthorne on Saturday.

Great Britain's Lapthorne - the second seed - mounted a spirited late charge on Rod Laver Arena, but Alcott was not to be denied his 10th grand slam singles crown.

Alcott was greeted by Australian Open men's champion and 16-time major winner Novak Djokovic, who is preparing for Sunday's decider against Dominic Thiem, as he posed with the trophy afterwards.

"Tennis honestly saved my life, it honestly did, when I was younger, and the Australian Open single-handedly changed my life," said Alcott, who pledged to donate $40,000 Australian dollars to people with disability affected by the bushfires in his home country.

"I love every single one of you for supporting what we do.

"If you look around the top row, almost every person has a disability and look, they're full … if we continue to grow society will continue to support us."

Novak Djokovic will contest his eighth Australian Open final as he eyes a record-extending Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in Melbourne on Sunday.

Defending champion Djokovic faces fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the men's decider after seeing off 20-time grand slam winner Roger Federer.

Thiem – who stunned world number one Rafael Nadal in the previous round – has won the previous two meetings with Djokovic, though he is preparing for his first Australian Open final.

We take a closer look at Djokovic ahead of his showdown with two-time slam runner-up Thiem.

 

Form and results

Djokovic has progressed steadily since dropping a set against tenacious German Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round. The Serbian star has only lost one set for the entire tournament, barely raising a sweat against Tatsuma Ito, Yoshihito Nishioka, Diego Schwartzman and Milos Raonic. Djokovic survived an onslaught against Federer, who raced out to a 4-1 lead and 40 love in warm conditions on Thursday. The second seed eventually eased past the injury-affected Swiss maestro on Rod Laver Arena.

R1: bt Struff 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 2-6 6-1
R2: bt Ito 6-1 6-4 6-2
R3: bt Nishioka 6-3 6-2 6-2
R4: bt Schwartzman [14] 6-3 6-4 6-4
QF: bt Raonic [32] 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-1)
SF: bt Federer [3] 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3

Next up

A surprise finalist, Thiem looms as a big threat to Djokovic. Up until this year, Thiem had never progressed beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park and was eliminated in the second round in 2019. However, the 26-year-old – who boasts one of the best backhands in the sport – has dazzled in Melbourne, where he slayed 19-time major champion Nadal in a thrilling quarter-final. Thiem, who has lost consecutive French Open finals to Nadal, followed that up with a 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) win over seventh seed Alexander Zverev in sweltering temperatures on Friday. Trailing 6-4 on head-to-head, Thiem has won four of the past five encounters with Djokovic – including twice last year at the ATP Finals and French Open.

What they said

"Dominic won our last match we played against each other, a close one in London. He played a terrific match against Rafa. I watched that. Definitely one of the best players in the world. Deserves to be where he is. It seems like he's improved his game a lot on hardcourts, because his game is more suitable to the slower surfaces. The clay of course being his favourite surface. But winning Indian Wells I think last year, beating Roger in the finals, that probably gave him a lot of confidence that he can win big tournaments on other surfaces, as well."

Dominic Thiem hopes to find the perfect balance between attack and defence against Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final, but accepts it is a fine line.

Thiem booked his spot in a third grand slam final and first in Melbourne by edging Alexander Zverev 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

The Austrian will face seven-time champion Djokovic in Sunday's final, and goes into that clash on the back of four wins in his past five meetings with the Serbian great.

Thiem, 26, said controlled aggression was a key when taking on Djokovic, who will be playing a record eighth Australian Open men's singles final.

"I think I have to keep a good balance. Of course, I have to risk a lot. I have to go for many shots," he told a news conference.

"At the same time, of course, not too much. That's a very thin line. In the last match against him, hit that line perfectly in London [at the ATP Finals].

"Of course, going to take a look at that match, how I played, and try to repeat it.

"But for sure he's the favourite. I mean, he won seven titles here, never lost a final, going for his eighth one. I'm feeling good on the court. I'm playing great tennis, so try to be at my absolutely best on Sunday."

A two-time French Open runner-up, Thiem's run to the final in Melbourne has come as a surprise, having previously never been beyond the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Considered a bigger threat on clay, Thiem said winning the Indian Wells Masters last year had boosted his confidence.

"First of all, Indian Wells, that victory gave me so much relief and so much confidence because finally got my first Masters 1000 title on hard court," he said.

"I mean, there in Indian Wells in the desert, it's pretty similar to clay. It's perfect for my game, balls bouncing so high.

"Then I think last fall in Asia, then in the indoor season, I made this huge step forward. I really developed my game I think in the right direction.

"I got more aggressive on hard courts, started to serve smarter and to return better. That also gave me a lot of confidence for this new year and for Australia because I told myself, 'If I can be in the finals in London, the ATP Finals, why not as well in a hard-court slam?' Since then I know that I'm also playing very well on the faster surfaces."

Alexander Zverev rued a missed opportunity after falling to Dominic Thiem in their Australian Open semi-final on Friday.

Zverev fell short in his maiden grand slam semi, losing 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) to his good friend Thiem in a thriller on Rod Laver Arena.

After taking the first set, the German had two chances to break back when Thiem was serving for the second and squandered two set points in the third.

Zverev, who converted five of 14 break points, lamented a missed chance in Melbourne.

"I had a lot of chances. I had 14 break points. That should be plenty," he told a news conference.

"In the important moments, I didn't play my best. He did. That's where the match kind of went his way. We've had a lot of tight moments, four tight sets.

"In the third set I had set points. In the fourth set, I had chances. Yeah, just got to execute better next time.

"But credit to him. He's playing unbelievable tennis right now."

After back-to-back quarter-final appearances at the French Open, Zverev's run to the semis was significant with the world number seven touted as a future grand slam winner.

The 22-year-old, who has won 11 ATP Tour titles, said a different approach to the major had paid off.

"It was a great tournament, great match today. I don't know. I came to this tournament different," Zverev said.

"I didn't play my best. I went step by step, match by match. Usually I didn't do that in grand slams.

"Maybe I can take that away, but right now I'm still a little bit disappointed about the match."

Dominic Thiem joked his stomach was "rebelling" as he closed in on victory against Alexander Zverev in their Australian Open semi-final.

Thiem appeared to be unwell for a brief period in his 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) victory over Zverev on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

The Austrian moved into his first final in Melbourne and third at a major, eyeing his maiden grand slam title when he faces Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

Thiem, 26, put his stomach issues down to nerves with the finish line in sight.

"I was feeling nerves, I think. I was putting so much energy, so much effort in so my stomach was not ready for that," he said in an on-court interview.

"I think it was rebelling a little bit, but all good.

"Sometimes it happens when they are really close and tough matches, but always good it went away again."

Thiem mixed 43 winners with 40 unforced errors, overcoming a sloppy start to get past his good friend Zverev.

The two-time French Open runner-up was delighted with his win, saying it was an ideal start to 2020.

"It was an unreal match again, two tie-breaks, so tough and so close," Thiem said after his seventh win in nine meetings with Zverev.

"It was almost impossible to break him, he had such a high percentage on his first serve.

"But the Australian Open final is absolutely unreal and what a start to the season so far."

Dominic Thiem set up an Australian Open final showdown with Novak Djokovic courtesy of a thrilling four-set win over Alexander Zverev on Friday.

The Austrian moved into his third grand slam decider by getting past Zverev 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) in an entertaining semi-final played almost entirely under the Rod Laver Arena roof.

Thiem, 26, needed three hours and 42 minutes to overcome Zverev and reach a first major final away from the French Open.

Playing his first semi-final at a grand slam, Zverev, 22, put up a huge fight in a gruelling baseline battle in warm conditions.

However, the German fell to a seventh loss in nine meetings with his good friend Thiem, who backed up his outstanding last-eight win over world number one Rafael Nadal to set up a clash with Djokovic on Sunday.

Showing some signs of early nerves, the players traded breaks in the opening two games as they tried to settle from the baseline.

The Rod Laver Arena roof was closed during the fourth game as rain fell in Melbourne, before Zverev – who had made the steadier start – took a 4-3 lead when Thiem put a forehand wide on break point.

Zverev impressively consolidated to love and broke again to take the opener, Thiem sending a backhand halfway up the net for his 13th unforced error of the set.

It was Zverev who was wayward to begin the second set, although he would initially recover from a break down in part thanks to a ripping cross-court return winner in the sixth game.

However, Thiem restored his advantage to go 4-3 up in a game that included a fortunate net cord before closing out the set in a 10th game that brought the crowd to life.

Zverev returned a Thiem overhead with one of his own for a winner and the Austrian missed another overhead into the bottom of the net, but he would level the match after saving two break points.

The pair had spectators on their feet again in the fifth game of the third set – briefly delayed due to an issue with the lights – after a thrilling point that featured a diving volley from Thiem, who was up by a break and talked his friend into a successful challenge that led to a tough hold.

He may have been regretting that decision when Zverev broke back in the following game and twice held set points in the 10th, both saved by Thiem winners, one from either wing.

Zverev, who had pledged to donate his entire prize money to the Australian bushfire relief fund if he won the tournament, served well on the way to a tie-break, but it was dominated by Thiem's brilliance. He began it with a delicate half-volley before firing two winners to end it, taking a two-sets-to-one lead despite appearing to suggest he was feeling unwell.

Both players held serve relatively comfortably through the fourth set as another tie-break followed.

Zverev then produced a nervy double fault, the second serve missing by a long way, early in the tie-break and a wild overhead miss, Thiem's aggression eventually paying off to book his spot in the final.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  
Thiem [5] bt Zverev [7] 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4)

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   
Thiem – 43/40
Zverev – 42/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   
Thiem – 10/4
Zverev – 16/3

BREAK POINTS WON   
Thiem – 4/9
Zverev – 5/14

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE   
Thiem – 67
Zverev – 81

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE   
Thiem – 77/40
Zverev – 68/50

TOTAL POINTS   
Thiem – 138
Zverev – 133

Garbine Muguruza's climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro should give her belief nothing is impossible on the court, according to coach Conchita Martinez.

The two-time grand slam champion scaled the highest peak in Africa during the off-season, having endured a difficult 2019 that saw her begin this year outside the world's top 30.

But, unseeded at the Australian Open, Muguruza has impressively reached the final, in which American Sofia Kenin awaits on Saturday.

Martinez, who reunited with Muguruza ahead of this season having helped the Spaniard win Wimbledon in 2017, said the 26-year-old's decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro would hold her in good stead.

"I think the mental part, you have to stay very tough. I don't know because I haven't done it," she told a news conference on Friday.

"Her stories, it's super cold where you can barely rest and you have to continue walking, where you had to overcome, I don't know, your fears and also be strong to continue.

"I think that gives you something mentally, that's for sure. I think she felt great about doing that. Not maybe everybody can reach the summit.

"She was stubborn enough to get there and she did it. I think that gives you something on the court where you might see something that is impossible, but everything is possible if you have the right mentality. She has the right mentality."

Now, Muguruza is a win away from achieving another fine feat – clinching a first hard-court grand slam title.

Standing in her way is Kenin, who she lost to in three sets in Beijing last year, and Martinez said being in control would be the key for Muguruza.

"She's a very good player. She's young. She's improving. I've been seeing her when I was working with [Karolina] Pliskova. I think she played her at the US Open 2018," she said.

"Last year I think she played her three times. I was with her a couple of times. She is a great player, very good fighter. She strikes the ball good. She is aggressive.

"I mean, the key is going to be to stay with her, to stay aggressive, try to be the one in command. It's not going to be easy, but hopefully she can do it.

"She's definitely improving. I mean, you can see over the time where she is. Like I said, it's not a one-time shot. A lot of work behind it. She's doing good."

Garbine Muguruza can join a small group of women to have won a grand slam while unseeded since 2000 when she faces Sofia Kenin in the Australian Open final.

A two-time grand slam champion, Muguruza has put together a fine run in Melbourne, where 14th seed Kenin awaits in the final on Saturday.

A French Open and Wimbledon winner, the Spaniard can add a first hard-court slam to her collection, having previously never been beyond the quarter-finals at the Australian Open.

Ranked 32nd in the world, the former world number one is aiming to win the grand slam while unseeded.

We look at the unseeded women to have won a grand slam since 2000 ahead of the Australian Open final.

2007 Australian Open – Serena Williams

Having missed most of 2006 due to a knee injury, Williams entered the 2007 tournament in Melbourne as the world number 81. The American cruised through the opening two rounds before overcoming fifth seed Nadia Petrova. In between wins over seeds Jelena Jankovic and Nicole Vaidisova, Williams survived her biggest scare, coming from a break down in the final set to edge Shahar Peer 8-6 in the third. In the final, Williams dispatched Maria Sharapova to win an eighth grand slam title.

2009 US Open – Kim Clijsters

After retiring, Clijsters gave birth to her daughter in early 2008 and needed a wildcard to enter the 2009 US Open, her first grand slam since Melbourne in 2007. The Belgian's biggest early tests came against Marion Bartoli and Venus Williams, surviving in three sets, before a quarter-final win over Li Na. Clijsters beat Serena Williams in an extraordinary semi-final during which the American threatened a linesperson over a foot-fault call, before overcoming Caroline Wozniacki in the final for her second major title.

2017 French Open – Jelena Ostapenko

Ostapenko was in fine form on clay heading into Roland Garros, where the Latvian stunned the tennis world. Untroubled early in the tournament, Ostapenko then played four consecutive three-setters on her way to the title, beating Sam Stosur, Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky and Simona Halep. Having turned 20 just days earlier, Ostapenko came from a set and 3-0 down in the second in the final against pre-tournament favourite Halep. She became the first Latvian to win a grand slam singles title, the crown also her first on the WTA Tour.

2017 US Open – Sloane Stephens

The highly rated Stephens, then ranked 83rd in the world, powered her way to the title in New York in 2017. The American had reached a semi-final (Australian Open) and quarter-final (Wimbledon) in 2013 before failing to go beyond the fourth round of a major leading into the US Open in 2017. A foot injury had sidelined her for almost a year after the 2016 Olympics, but Stephens stepped up on her return. She battled past the likes of Dominika Cibulkova, Julia Goerges, Anastasija Sevastova and Venus Williams before hammering Madison Keys in the final for her maiden major title.

Novak Djokovic is satisfied with his form heading into a record eighth Australian Open men's singles final after brushing past Roger Federer.

The Serbian 16-time grand slam champion recovered from a slow start to beat Federer 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3 in their semi-final on Thursday.

Djokovic dropped a set in the opening round but has cruised through since, including beating a hurting Federer in their 50th meeting.

The seven-time champion in Melbourne has already won 12 singles matches this year and is happy with where his game is at ahead of facing either Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev in the final on Sunday.

"Yes, I'm pleased with the way I've been feeling and playing," Djokovic told a news conference.

"I thought the ATP Cup went really well for me, I got a lot of hours spent on the court, singles and doubles. It was a great lead-up for the Australian Open.

"Obviously I got a lot of positive energy from that competition. I've dropped only one set so far up to the finals. I have two days of no match right now, which actually is really good. It gives me more time to recuperate and gather all the necessary energy for the finals."

While he savoured Serbia's ATP Cup triumph and has dominated in Melbourne, Djokovic will face a first-time Australian Open finalist in either Thiem or Zverev.

By reaching the final for an eighth time, Djokovic now holds the outright record for the most visits to the title match in the Open era, having previously been tied with Federer on seven appearances.

He holds positive head-to-head records against both Thiem (6-4) and Zverev (3-2), but is wary of the duo.

"Well, Dominic won our last match when we played against each other, a close one in London [at the ATP Finals in November]. He played a terrific match against Rafa [Nadal] last night. I watched that," Djokovic said.

"[He is] definitely one of the best players in the world. Deserves to be where he is. It seems like he's improved his game a lot on hard-courts, because his game is more suitable to the slower surfaces, the clay of course being his favourite surface.

"But winning Indian Wells I think last year, beating Roger in the finals, that probably gave him a lot of confidence that he can win big tournaments on other surfaces, as well.

"Alex didn't start the year very well. I watched his matches. I practised with him in Brisbane during ATP Cup. He wasn't feeling his best on the court, not much confidence.

"It's impressive with the way he has been playing so far in this tournament, building his game, raising the level of tennis that he's been playing. It's his first semi-final at a grand slam in his career, so I'm sure that he is motivated, he's pumped to get at least a step further. It's going to be really a good match to watch."

Roger Federer felt he had just a "three per cent chance" of winning going into his Australian Open semi-final against Novak Djokovic after battling injury.

The Swiss great made a strong start before falling to a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3 loss to Djokovic, who reached a record eighth final in Melbourne on Thursday.

Federer battled a groin injury during an incredible quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren and took a medical timeout after the first set of his loss to Djokovic.

The 20-time grand slam champion admitted he felt his chances of victory over Djokovic, who has won 27 of their 50 meetings, were slim.

"Look, overall, at the end of the day I guess I'm very happy. I've got to be happy with what I achieved," Federer told a news conference.

"It was the maximum to go to get at this tournament, especially after the [John] Millman and the Sandgren match.

"Today was horrible, to go through what I did. Nice entrance, nice send off, and in between is one to forget because you know you have a three per cent chance to win. You know, got to go for it. You never know.

"But once you can see it coming, that it's not going to work anymore, it's tough. No, look, at the end of the day I'm very happy.

"I think I overall played all right. I know I can play better. At the same time, I also know I can play much worse. With no tournaments beforehand, I think it's a very, very good result."

Federer was optimistic over the injury, saying he wanted to play in a scheduled exhibition match against Rafael Nadal in South Africa on February 7.

A six-time champion in Melbourne, Federer, 38, was unsurprisingly unwilling to guarantee he would be back at the Australian Open, but he was hopeful.

"No idea. Same as last year. You never know what the future holds," he said.

"But especially my age, you don't know. I'm confident. I'm happy how I'm feeling, to be honest. I got through a good, nice training block. No plans to retire.

"From that standpoint, we'll see how the year goes, how everything is with the family. We'll go from there. Of course, I hope to be back."

Novak Djokovic paid tribute to Roger Federer for playing while "obviously hurt" in their Australian Open semi-final on Thursday.

Djokovic reached an outright record eighth Australian Open men's singles final with a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3 victory over Federer in their 50th meeting.

The Serbian star recovered from 1-4 0-40 down in the first set on his way to improving his head-to-head record over Federer to 27-23.

Federer took a medical timeout at the end of the first set, having dealt with a groin injury during his incredible quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.

And Djokovic praised his rival for playing through the pain, saying in an on-court interview: "Full respect to Roger for coming out tonight, he was obviously hurt.

"He obviously was hurt and wasn't at his best, even close to his best in terms of movement, respect for coming out and trying his best all the way through."

Djokovic, who started slowly before finding his rhythm, said Federer's injury woes impacted the way he opened the encounter.

"It was probably not exactly the right mindset from my side at the beginning of the match," the 16-time grand slam champion said.

"I was kind of looking more on how he's moving and what he's doing rather than executing my shots in the right way and it resulted with a 1-4 down and 0-40 lead for him.

"I managed to kind of dig my way through, back in the first set and it was very important to win that first set obviously mentally relaxed a little bit after that and could swing through the ball a bit more."

Djokovic will face either Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev in his 26th major final.

Novak Djokovic moved into an outright record eighth Australian Open men's singles final with another win over long-time rival Roger Federer on Thursday.

Djokovic recovered from a first-set deficit before recording a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3 semi-final victory over Federer in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena in a match lasting two hours and 18 minutes.

A record seven-time champion in Melbourne, the Serbian star proved too good for Federer, 38, in the 50th meeting between the all-time greats, with 27 having now been won by Djokovic.

But it only came after Federer coughed up a 4-1 lead in a first set he should have won, the 20-time grand slam winner – who took a medical timeout after the opener – letting a huge chance slip.

Djokovic, who started slowly, would punish him to move within a win of a 17th major title and eighth in Melbourne, where he has never lost a semi or final, with Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev awaiting.

After saving two break points in the opening game, Federer – who looked sprightly after his groin worry in the incredible quarter-final against Tennys Sandgren – broke for a 2-0 lead with a wonderful backhand pass down the line.

An uncharacteristically sloppy Djokovic would break in the next game before giving up serve once more, sending a backhand wide on break point.

Djokovic dug out of a 0-40 hole when trailing 4-1 and from 0-30 down in the eighth game, those holds proving crucial when he broke to love after a poor ninth game from Federer, who produced four bad errors.

Suddenly, a set Federer looked in complete control of slipped out of his grasp, the 63-minute opener settled after the improving Djokovic played a superb tie-break.

After an off-court medical timeout at the end of the first set, Federer had the greater difficulties on serve throughout the second before Djokovic landed the break at the perfect time.

As "Nole! Nole! Nole!' chants rang out among a crowd largely backing Federer, Djokovic broke serve and took the second set with a cross-court winner following a drop shot from his opponent.


Federer tried to hang in there to begin the third but, in truth, he was causing Djokovic few problems.

Djokovic closed in on victory with a forehand winner for a break and 4-2 lead, a tough hold in the following game helping him past Federer for the fifth time in their past six meetings.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  
Djokovic [2] bt Federer [3] 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   
Djokovic – 31/18
Federer – 46/35

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   
Djokovic – 11/1
Federer – 15/3

BREAK POINTS WON   
Djokovic – 4/11
Federer – 2/7

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE   
Djokovic – 73
Federer – 65

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE   
Djokovic – 73/54
Federer – 66/42

TOTAL POINTS   
Djokovic – 113
Federer – 93

Simona Halep said the heat "killed" her as she surrendered to the sizzling game of Garbine Muguruza in their Australian Open semi-final.

With temperatures reaching the mid-30s at Melbourne Park, conditions were distinctly uncomfortable for both players on Rod Laver Arena.

The unseeded Muguruza prevailed in a gruelling battle, her 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 success setting up a final showdown against Sofia Kenin on Saturday.

Halep was in charge of each set until being reeled in both times by Muguruza, whose performances had dipped since winning Wimbledon and the French Open earlier in her career.

That grand slam title-winning form was back as Halep, who has also triumphed at the grass-court and clay-court slams, was edged out of the tournament.

"It was very, very hot today and I felt it," Halep said. "It killed me after the first set, in the end of the first set. The sun was strong. I didn't like that much to play in this weather."

Conditions were fractionally below the point on the tournament's heat stress scale at which the roof would have been automatically closed on the stadium court.

"I would love to see the roof closed. But rules are rules. We have to accept it," Halep said.

"The level of energy went down a little bit, and I felt it in the legs. I was not used to it in the last two weeks, we didn't have that much heat. And today I felt the sun a little bit too much. It was not 100 per cent right for me, but it is how it is."

With Australian favourite Ash Barty ousted in the first semi-final, it will be a surprising line-up in the title match.

Romanian Halep said defeat left her "in pain", given the control she held at different stages in the match.

"But life goes on," she said. "I think maybe I could be a little bit more brave in the points that were important. I didn't do that."

Muguruza looked like a player who might dominate the women's tour when she took the 2017 Wimbledon title in some style.

She reached number one in the WTA rankings later that year, but has dropped outside the top 30 since.

"If she can play every day like this, she can be number one, for sure," Halep said. "But it's tough to do that."

Halep knows, having spent 64 weeks at the summit.

"Consistency on tour, it's the most important thing and the toughest one," Halep added. "She's a great champion. She knows how to win grand slams, how to win titles."

Sofia Kenin stunned world number one Ash Barty to reach her first grand slam final at the Australian Open but it came as no surprise to the American, who always believed. 

Kenin spoiled the 'Barty Party' on Thursday, the 14th seed upstaging the Australian star 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 in sweltering heat in Melbourne, where the temperature soared towards 40 degrees Celsius.

The 21-year-old Kenin, who will meet two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza in Saturday's decider, became the first American other than a Williams sister to progress to the Australian Open final since Lindsay Davenport in 2005.

Kenin also became the youngest player to defeat a world number one at the tournament since 2008, when Maria Sharapova knocked out Justine Henin in the quarter-finals. 

"I always believed I can. Of course, I didn't have a book. I didn't know exactly when. I feel like at this young age, I think it's incredible," Kenin, who saved two set points in both the first and second sets, told reporters.

"Not everyone gets to live this moment, live this dream. I'm just really grateful for it. I've worked so hard. I've put all the efforts into my practices, into my fitness. All the efforts I've been doing, it's got me here. It's just paying off and it's like a dream come true for me."

Kenin added: "I'm not shocked. It's a dream come true for me. I've always dreamed about this. Of course, I believed in myself. 

"I was playing, I knew I was in the semi-final. It was just great. I'm so happy I was able to share the court with Ash.

"After the match, of course it's pretty emotional. It's the finals. It's something different. It's surreal. [I'm] so grateful for it."

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