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Federer's streak of 10 straight Grand Slam finals ended by Djokovic
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ The crowd roared as Roger Federer rallied against Novak Djokovic.
Surely this was the start of a comeback by the world's top-ranked player. Surely Djokovic was cracking under the pressure of trying to gain his second major final.
Not this time.
For once, Federer wasn't invincible.
He had reached 10 straight Grand Slam finals, and won 19 matches in a row at Melbourne Park. That all came to an emphatic end when he lost to No. 3 Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the Australian Open semifinals Friday.
"I've created a monster that I need to win every tournament," Federer said. "Still, the semifinals isn't bad."
The Swiss star had been seeking his third consecutive title here, which would have pulled him within one of Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slams. Instead, he'll have to start thinking about his practice regime for the clay courts at the French Open, the only major to elude him so far.
"I think he made the more important points today, it was a bit unfortunate for me," said Federer, who rubbed his eyes frequently at his post-match news conference. "There is no doubt I have played better before.
He lost in straight sets for the first time in a Grand Slam tournament since a third-round defeat to Gustavo Kuerten at the 2004 French Open.
The emotional Djokovic, who has reached the semifinals of the last four majors, pounded 13 aces and 50 winners, largely avoiding the nerves that have occasionally troubled him.
"I am just very amazed I coped with the pressure today," the 20-year-old Serbian said. "In the most important moments, I played my best tennis. It's just amazing, indescribable, to beat the No. 1 player of the world, one of the best players this sport has ever had, in straight sets."
Djokovic will face unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the other semifinal, in the final Sunday.
"It's going to be interesting, young players playing against each other," said Djokovic, who complained of exhaustion at the Masters Cup in November after playing more matches than anyone last year, then rejuvenated himself with a break in which he did as little as possible.
"Obviously, we will not have anything to lose."
One of them will win his first major championship.
In the women's final Saturday another Serbian, fourth-seeded Ana Ivanovic, will meet No. 5 Maria Sharapova.
Other than a third-round victory over Janko Tipsarevic that went to 10-8 in the fifth set, Federer has been in good form after a stomach ailment interrupted his pre-tournament preparations. He dominated James Blake in the quarterfinals and appeared to be peaking at the right time.
Despite a 1-5 record against Federer that included a loss in the U.S. Open final last September, Djokovic was far from intimidated on a muggy night in packed Rod Laver Arena, even after getting broken in the first set.
Federer, who is usually at his best as the pressure builds toward the end of a set, pulled ahead at 5-3 only to be stunned as Djokovic ran off the last four games.
Federer grimaced or hung his head as his groundstrokes and feathery drop shots lacked their usual punch and accuracy, or deserted him entirely.
"Sometimes when you don't take your chances early on, you'll pay the price later," he said. "There is some sort of a disappointment. The way I tried, that's all I could give. When you give 100 percent, you're sort of happy with your performance. It can't always go your way."
Djokovic broke him to pull ahead at 3-1 in the second set. He finished off the game by getting to a drop shot on the dead run and flicking a backhand past Federer that kissed the line. Djokovic roared and raised his fist, then repeatedly pounded his chest.
He broke again to pull ahead at 5-1. Serving for the set, Djokovic looked a little tight, and Federer took advantage to break. When he held to make it 5-3, the crowd came alive and chants of "Let's go Roger, let's go" nearly drowned out shouts of "No-vak, No-vak."
"I felt the crowd was not behind me, but that's OK ... I fight two opponents," Djokovic said.
Federer forced deuce as Djokovic again served for the set.
Known for his tendency to bounce the ball up to two dozen times before serving, particularly when things get tight, the Serbian got a time delay warning. Instead of being shaken, Djokovic was fired up. He ripped a forehand winner and glared up at chair umpire Pascal Maria of France, then blasted an ace and stared defiantly at Maria again.
Federer had two chances to break as Djokovic served at 5-6, but the Serbian refused to crack, hitting two great serves, then getting to a drop for a forehand crosscourt winner to force a tiebreaker.
After Djokovic set up match point with a good serve, Federer netted a forehand to finish it.
The crowd slowly rose to its feet, almost in disbelief, before applauding Djokovic, then gave Federer a standing ovation as he quickly left the court.

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