Melbourne, Jan 27 (AFP) Novak Djokovic sensationallyknocked Roger Federer out of the Australian Open semi-finalstoday, leaving the defending champion without a Grand Slamtitle for the first time in eight years.
The third seed''s comprehensive 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 6-4victory over the great Swiss came after China''s Li Na madehistory by becoming the first Asian woman to reach a majorfinal, where she will meet Kim Clijsters on Saturday.
Federer, 29, was outplayed in a high-quality tussle onRod Laver Arena, a day after Rafael Nadal''s injury-hastenedexit ended the Spaniard''s bid for the "Rafa Slam" sweep of allfour major titles.
"He puts a lot of pressure on you, so I tried to stay tothe last moment and really it was one of the best matches I''veplayed in a while," Djokovic said.
"I had to take my chances, in the second set I was abreak up and in 20 minutes I was 5-2 down, so if I had lostthat set God knows which direction the match would go."
Djokovic''s win leaves him facing either Britain''s AndyMurray or Spain''s David Ferrer in Sunday''s final, where men''stennis will have its first Grand Slam champion other thanNadal or Federer in three years.
The Serbian world number three, who also beat Federer inlast year''s US Open semis, now has a golden chance to add tohis lone Grand Slam title achieved in Melbourne in 2008 --when he also bested the Swiss in the semis.
Meanwhile, world number two Federer lost his lastremaining major title after a record 16-Slam streak whichbegan with his first victory at Wimbledon in 2003, ending anera of unprecedented dominance.
"Novak was the better player tonight, I''ve got to acceptthat and move on," the four-time winner said. "It''s not theend anyway... I wish I could have won here for the fifth time,but it was impossible tonight."
The impressive Djokovic took control of the first-settiebreaker and recovered from a double service break in thesecond to take a two-set lead over the rattled Federer, beforegaining the crucial break late in the third. MORE (AFP) CM
Earlier Li stunned world number one Caroline Wozniacki to set up a final with Belgium''s three-time Grand Slam winnerClijsters, who crushed world number two Vera Zvonareva.
Li clawed her way back from match point down to clinch it3-6, 7-5, 6-3, and lie one win from a maiden Chinese majorvictory which could ignite tennis''s growth in her giant homecountry.
It was sheer delight for the beaming Li, who was beatenby Serena Williams in last year''s semi-final, and heroicallyrecovered from a dreadful start against Wozniacki which sheblamed on a lack of sleep.
"I didn''t have a good night''s sleep last night," shejoked. "My husband (snored). I woke up every hour."
But the result meant heartbreak for Wozniacki, whoremains without a major title, meaning she will undoubtedlyface more questions about her legitimacy as the world''s bestplayer. Her best result is US Open runner-up in 2009.
"Sometimes in matches or in tennis it''s one ball that canchange everything. I didn''t get my match point. From then on,well, she was just better at the most important points," saidthe despondent Wozniacki.
However, Li will be in no doubt about the task aheadafter Clijsters steamrolled Russia''s Zvonareva with ominousease to reach her second Australian Open final 6-3, 6-3 injust 1hr 13min.
Clijsters said she played her best tennis of thetournament. In 2004, Clijsters was runner-up to countrywomanJustine Henin, who announced her retirement overnight after anelbow injury.
The result meant more frustration for Zvonareva, who wasa beaten finalist at the previous two Grand Slam finals,including September''s US Open loss to Clijsters.
"Vera is a tough player and I knew it would be a toughmatch against her," Clijsters said. "I knew I had to be on topof my game and lift my level compared to my other matches. Iwas able to rise to the occasion."
Zvonareva, 26, got off to the perfect start when shebroke Clijsters in the opening game, but from there on theBelgian dominated. The 27-year-old barely made a mistake,banishing the erratic form that has plagued her career. (AFP)CM