MELBOURNE, Australia - Roger Federer saved a parting shot for anyone who thinks his time is up and a changing of the guard in tennis awaits.
“Yeah, I mean, they say that very quickly. Let’s talk in six months again,” he said.
The heavily hyped duel between Federer and Rafael Nadal will not happen in Melbourne, opening a rare window for someone else.
Federer, the defending champion, lost to Novak Djokovic, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-4, in the Australian Open semifinals Thursday night. It marks the first time since 2008 neither of tennis’ most dominant men will play in a Grand Slam final. Less than 24 hours earlier, an ailing Nadal’s pursuit of a Rafa Slam evaporated in a quarterfinal loss to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
Djokovic will play Ferrer or Andy Murray in the final.
On the women’s side, the title match is set with Kim Clijsters facing Li Na. Clijsters beat Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 6-3, and Li eliminated top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Clijsters said early today that 2011 is “probably going to be my last full season on the tour.”
Federer and Nadal have combined to win 21 of the past 23 majors. This is also the first time since 2003 that Federer, a 16-time Grand Slam winner, will not hold at least one of the four major trophies.
The Swiss great was outplayed by Djokovic. It was the second consecutive time Federer has lost to the Serb — he had match points before losing in the U.S. Open semifinals.
“It’s disappointing and it hurts in the moment itself,” Federer said. “I wish I could have won here again for the fifth time. But (it) wasn’t possible tonight.”
Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro are the only players who have broken the Nadal-Federer sequence. Del Potro beat Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final. Djokovic defeated Federer in the Australian semifinals three years ago, then beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.
Since then, Djokovic has been the perennial next-best player — he has finished the past four years at No. 3.
He was careful to play down any talk about a new order in tennis.
“Look, it’s maybe early to say that,” Djokovic said. “Roger is still very much motivated to reclaim the first spot in the rankings.”