Australian Open 2020: Five Federer-Djokovic classics ahead of 50th encounter

By Sports Desk January 29, 2020

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will meet for a 50th time in what is a storied rivalry that has repeatedly produced classic matches.

Djokovic leads their head-to-head 26-23 and that stands at 10-6 when the all-time greats have met at grand slams.

It is also 3-1 at the Australian Open and the Serbian, whose 16 grand slam titles are four shy of Federer's 20, will head into Thursday's semi-final in Melbourne as favourite.

Ahead of their meeting, we look at five of the classics they have delivered.

2010 US Open semi-final: Djokovic [3] bt Federer [2] 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5

Flushing Meadows was Federer's playground for five straight years until 2009, when he was stunned by Juan Martin del Potro in the final. To this point, he had dominated Djokovic, too. But the Serbian managed to save two match points in a thrilling five-setter to win in almost four hours in a victory that would – even with Federer only 29 years of age – bring suggestions the Swiss maestro was on the decline.

2011 French Open semi-final: Federer [3] bt Djokovic [2] 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5)

By the time they met at Roland Garros the following year, Djokovic was a heavy favourite after incredibly winning his first 41 matches of 2011, including a second major title at the Australian Open. But Federer would end that run, wagging his finger after his stunning four-set victory. The year would still belong to Djokovic, and not before more drama against Federer.

2011 US Open semi-final: Djokovic [1] bt Federer [3] 6-7 (7-9) 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5

Having recovered from two sets down to force a decider, Djokovic reeled off the final four games and saved two match points to shock Federer, and the way he saved the first lives long in the memory. Djokovic crushed a forehand cross-court return winner that John McEnroe would describe as "one of the all-time great shots", one which even Federer struggled to accept. Djokovic would go on to win his third major of 2011.

2014 Wimbledon final: Djokovic [1] bt Federer [4] 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 6-4

Djokovic. Federer. All England Club. Wimbledon final. They are words sports fans dream of. Federer was in his first major decider since 2012, while Djokovic had lost his previous three grand slam finals – one to Andy Murray and two to Rafael Nadal. Federer would produce the comeback this time, coming from 5-2 down and saving a match point in the fourth to force a decider. But just as Federer looked the more likely winner, Djokovic stepped up to win a seventh major crown. The pair combined for 143 winners and just 56 unforced errors in a match Djokovic labelled the "best quality grand slam final" he had played in.

2019 Wimbledon final: Djokovic [1] bt Federer [2] 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3)

Fast forward five years and they met again, and they delivered once more on the biggest stage. Federer would be left to rue missed chances after a battle lasting four hours, 57 minutes – the longest singles final in Wimbledon history. Djokovic saved two match points at 8-7 in the fifth set before a match tie-break followed, the first in singles in the tournament's history. Djokovic would go on to win a 16th grand slam title, moving a little closer to Federer's all-time men's record total of 20.

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    "Ridiculous" was a word used by Frank Lampard to sum up N'Golo Kante last week - and with good reason. 

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    Kante's "quietly influential" form has helped Lampard's side to a strong start to the season that has left some to bill Sunday's derby clash with Tottenham as something of a title showdown – or at least a game that could well highlight which of the two has the best chance of dethroning Liverpool. 

    A win for either side will move them top of the table after 10 games, but Kante's recent performances might just indicate Chelsea have the edge.

    BACK WHERE HE BELONGS?

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    The system was hardly a failure: Chelsea returned to the Champions League, won the Europa League and only lost the EFL Cup final on penalties to Manchester City. Few, though, ever thought it brought the best out of Kante. 

    Since taking charge last year, Lampard has shifted Kante back towards the middle and, as can be seen from his average touch maps, 2020-21 sees a full return for the France international as the midfield anchor.

    N'Golo Kante's touch maps by season, from 2018-19 (L) to 2020-21. The shift from the right-hand side towards the base of midfield is clear.

    He is averaging 82 touches per 90 minutes in the Premier League, the highest figure he has ever posted for Chelsea, five more than in his title-winning debut season in 2016-17. He is also averaging 67 passes per game, more than he ever has before for the club.

    In other words, Kante is very much at the heart of Lampard's Chelsea.

    He is also back to his exceptional defensive levels in 2020-21, averaging three interceptions per game – again the most in his Chelsea career – as well as three tackles, his highest figure under Lampard.

    The caveat is his passes in the final third have dropped by an average of six per game compared to last season and by nine compared to 2018-19, but the creative talent at Lampard's disposal means the burden of attacking is no longer on Kante's shoulders.

    HOJBJERG BATTLE AWAITS

    If Chelsea's form is based in part on the performances of Kante, Tottenham's strong start to the season is very much built on the work of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

    Signed from Southampton for a reported £15million fee, the 25-year-old has established himself as Jose Mourinho's most important player behind the relentlessly brilliant Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

    Through nine rounds of the 2020-21 Premier League campaign, Hojbjerg had managed more touches (809), attempted more passes (695) and completed more passes (619) than any other midfielder in the competition. He has also got stuck into 29 tackles, the third-highest number for midfielders this term and four more than Kante.

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    The Blues should not be lacking motivation this week, but the potential to make history against their former boss adds just a little more spice.


    Mourinho's full record against Chelsea (Premier League unless stated):

    Inter 2-1 Chelsea (Champions League) - 2010
    Chelsea 0-1 Inter (Champions League) - 2010

    Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United - 2016
    Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United (FA Cup) - 2017
    Manchester United 2-0 Chelsea - 2017
    Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United - 2017
    Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea - 2018
    Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United (FA Cup final) - 2018
    Chelsea 2-2 Manchester United - 2018
    Tottenham 0-2 Chelsea - 2019
    Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham - 2020
    Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea (EFL Cup, 5-4 pens) - 2020

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