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By Niall Clarke

  • Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer preview
  • Head to head: 22-22

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA- Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are set to collide for the 45th time as they battle for a place in the Australian Open final.

It is arguably the greatest rivalry in the history of our sport. Certainly in most recent times, Federer has been the most consistent test to the dominant world number one, notching up more victories against Djokovic over the past two years than anyone on tour.

But for all the battles in 2014 and in 2015, the Swiss could never get the ‘W’ in a grand slam event. In fact you will have to go back to Wimbledon 2012 to find Federer’s last victory over Djokovic in a major event- it was also the last grand slam the 34 year old won.

The search for a record breaking 18th slam title has been thwarted at the final hurdle three times since- a hurdle that stands 6ft2 and moves like an Olympic sprinter. Djokovic proved to be too good at Wimbledon 2014, 2015 and the US Open last year, ultimately finding his best tennis when it mattered most.

Overall their rivalry could not be closer. 22 wins each in their 44 previous clashes, 14 of which have been in grand slams- more than any other rivalry in men’s tennis.

But this goes deeper than numbers. For Federer it is the search for one more major title, a victory that would break his own titles record. The last time he won a major he defeated Djokovic in the semi finals and then Andy Murray in the final- a path that will likely be replicated if he is to go all the way in Melbourne.

“I mean, a lot, yeah.” Federer said when asked about winning one more major title

“It’s part of the reason why I guess I’m still playing. I feel like I’m competitive at the top. I can beat all the guys on tour. It’s nice now that in the last three slams that I’ve been as consistent as I have been.

“I’m playing good tennis, fun tennis for me anyway. I really enjoy being able to come to the net more like back in the day. So I’m very pleased.

“It would mean a lot to me, no doubt about it.”

For Djokovic it is about catching his next opponent. Standing on 10 Grand Slams with seemingly plenty of years left in him, the Serbian is undoubtedly the biggest threat to Federer’s 17. The Australian Open is his best major as he holds a record five titles here.

Federer still stands with the elite at number three in the world, despite being 34 years old. Djokovic however believes that fitness is not something he can heavily rely on.

“I don’t think there’s too big of a difference physically.” Djokovic said.

“He’s been not spending too much time on the court. He’s been winning quite comfortably this tournament. He’s pretty fit. He moves very well.

“Yeah, maybe. The longer the match goes, maybe I have slightly bigger chance. I don’t still think it’s something I can heavily rely on.”

For the fans of the respective players it will be a nail biter, but for the neutrals they will no doubt be treated to another chapter of this storied rivalry. It is the attacker vs the counter puncher, it is the world number one vs the world number three, it is Federer vs Djokovic 45- It is certain to be a thriller, but who will make the Australian Open final?

Federer vs Djokovic will take place on Rod Laver at approximately 8:30AM GMT on Thursday.

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