Novak Djokovic produced tennis Roger Federer would have been proud of in his prime as the world number one outclassed the Swiss master again to reach his sixth Australian Open final.
Djokovic blew Federer away during two stunning opening sets on Rod Laver Arena and while the 34-year-old recovered to snatch the third, it proved only a consolation as the Serb won a pulsating contest 6-1 6-2 3-6 6-3.
It means Djokovic now leads the pair’s head-to-head for the first time 23-22 and he goes through to meet either Britain’s Andy Murray or Canadian Milos Raonic in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic had given his rivals hope after two lacklustre displays against Gilles Simon and Kei Nishikori but the top seed was back to his very best here and will now be strong favourite to clinch his 11th major crown.
Amazing rally from Djokovic and Federer earlier. Lovely stuff.https://t.co/FU3XqWbswE— Paddy Power (@paddypower) January 28, 2016
For Federer, his wait for an 18th continues and despite playing brilliantly against the rest of the field, it may never end while he keeps running into Djokovic, who has now won their last four grand slam meetings.
“Definitely I played unbelievable first two sets but that’s what’s necessary against Roger,” Djokovic said.
“He’s been playing at a very high level, he had dropped only one set and I knew he’d be aggressive, mix up the pace and come to the net.
“I came out with the right intensity, great concentration and executed everything perfectly.
“A two-set lead is more comfortable but it was a battle in the end.”
Earlier in the day Serena Williams had blown away Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 in a 20-minute opening set and Djokovic was only marginally less brutal as he annihilated his opponent 6-1 in 22 minutes.
Two breaks of serve added extra humiliation as Djokovic was irresistible, making just two unforced errors to Federer’s 12 and winning 24 points to Federer’s 11.
The world number three looked shell-shocked and his predicament soon got worse as Djokovic broke again for 2-1 in the second set after Federer sent a forehand long.
After losing serve just five times in all his first five matches, Federer had now been broken three times in 33 minutes and when another brilliant Djokovic return landed bang on the baseline, the Serbian took the double break before sealing the set.
With just three games on the board, Federer still needed two more to better his worst ever defeat – a four-game thrashing at the hands of Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2008 – and it looked far from guaranteed.
On the brink of demolition, however, Federer fought back.
He found his groove from the back and his confidence at the net and Djokovic, previously unflappable, suddenly looked human again.
Matters came to a head in a superb game at 3-2 when Federer came out of a quick-fire exchange of volleys on top and then whipped a forehand winner to snatch a morale-boosting break.
The crowd reacted with a standing ovation – this was hope of a comeback – and their belief grew as Federer continued his golden patch, driving another pinpoint forehand pass before taking the third set.
The euphoria had to wait as play was suspended and the roof was closed for rain but neither player seemed to have lost rhythm when the action resumed.
It remained on serve until Federer came under pressure at 4-3. He won an astonishing rally at 30-15 as Djokovic looked to have won the point twice before Federer produced a stunning backhand pass.
Djokovic, however, regained his composure to flick a backhand pass of his own, before drilling a return at Federer’s feet to clinch the break.
It felt like match point and so it proved as Djokovic served out with ease to confirm an emphatic victory in two hours and 19 minutes.