If there was ever a time to face Novak Djokovic, it is now.
Djokovic and Roger Federer will meet at the Australian Open for the first time since 2011, with a spot in the finale awaiting the winner in Melbourne.
Perfection and unbeatable have been used to describe Djokovic, though the world number one has looked anything but as an eighth consecutive grand slam semi-final looms.
In the space of two matches, Djokovic has racked up a total of 127 unforced errors in meetings with Gilles Simon and Kei Nishikori.
Of the 127, 100 came in the five-set marathon win over Simon, an uncharacteristic amount as for the first time in a long time, fans and pundits alike have been left with more questions than answers.
Fortunately for Djokovic, his opponents were unable to capitalise.
“At this level you’re always asking a lot from yourself. I have to be satisfied. I reached the semi-finals. I won against a top-10 player in straight sets,” the 10-time grand slam champion said after defeating Nishikori 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Tuesday.
“Comparing to the fourth-round match, this was much better. That makes me confident and encourages me for the next one.”
But he will not be let off the hook so easily against a Swiss great gunning for an 18th grand slam title and some revenge.
Federer – leading the tournament for first serve points won at 84 per cent compared to Djokovic’s 75 – has been a class above at Melbourne Park, dropping just one set to reach a 12th semi-final in 13 years in Melbourne.
Wins, though still short of perfection, over Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych have Federer primed in his bid to atone for last year’s failures in the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open.
On both occasions, Federer lost out to Djokovic in four sets, making up two of the five defeats against the Serb, who squared up the ledger at 22 wins apiece despite three losses to the Swiss.
And while Federer has taken a back seat to Djokovic and Co. since last winning a slam in 2012, the 34-year-old will not get a better opportunity to get one over his rival.