April 17, 2006! What’s so significant about this date? A qualifier by the name of Novak Djokovic played his first match against ‘the’ Roger Federer in the first round of Monte Carlo Masters. The Serb, then ranked 67th in the world, lost the match but not before stretching the Swiss in a three-setter.
Few would have guessed that this was the beginning of a fierce warfare. Their rivalry has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Federer sure had the upper hand in the early days before Djoko cracked the code in the last two years.
Yes, Federer does have a 16-13 head-to-head record going in his favour, but it wasn’t offered to him in a platter; he had to earn each of those 16 wins.
Records are Sachin Tendulkar’s second love, and also Federer’s. They follow him anywhere and everywhere. Grand Slams apart, he has records attached to his name in rivalries too. Djoko-Federer have played each other for a record 11 times in Grand Slams, second only to Nadal-Federer (10) and Lendl-McEnroe (10).
And in all probability, they will lock horns for a record 12th time at the Australian Open final on Sunday. What’s interesting is the duo have played in a Grand Slam final only once before, at the 2007 US Open, with Roger winning in straight sets. Call it the rankings or draws or fate, nine of those 11 meetings have come in the semifinals. And in Australian Open, Djoko leads 2-1.
While Federer has his eyes set on regaining the No 1 ranking, the current world No 1 is looking to win a hat-trick of titles at the Melbourne Park. There is very little to differentiate between the two. It will be a battle of Roger’s brains vs Djoko’s brawn.
If they do manage to make the final (Federer plays Andy Murray, Djokovic faces David Ferrer in the semis), the odds heavily favour the Serb, and so does Federer. Statistics go Djoko’s way, will fate too? Stay tuned to find out!