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Novak Djokovic defeats Milos Raonic to set up Australian Open semi-final against Roger Federer

By Vincent Ashitey
Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic set up an Australian Open semi-final against Roger Federer after producing another clinical performance to beat Canadian 32nd seed Milos Raonic.

Djokovic dismantled Raonic's potent serve to win 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-1) despite an eye problem late in the third set.

The Serb second seed, who is aiming for a record-extending eighth title, has lost just one set in Melbourne so far.

Djokovic, 32, will meet Swiss third seed Federer in Thursday's semi-final.

It is the pair's first meeting at the Australian Open since Djokovic beat 38-year-old Federer in their 2016 semi-final.

"He is one of the all-time greats and the match-ups against Roger and Rafa have made me the player I am today," said Djokovic, who has lost just three times at Melbourne Park in the past decade.

"I hope I can get just one match point against him. Let the better player win."

Djokovic maintains champion form

Djokovic, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, has been in fine fettle as he looks to move closer to Federer's all-time record of 20 major triumphs with another victory in Melbourne.

On a court where he has produced some of the finest performances of his career, the Serb continues to show why he is widely considered as the man to beat.

Raonic, 29, came into the last-eight contest having not dropped serve and not dropped a set in his previous four matches.

But Djokovic negated that weapon from the very start with his energetic court coverage and relentless returning.

Djokovic created 12 break points across the opening two sets and needed to convert just one in each to move within another of the last four.

The third set required a little more patience from Djokovic, who did not create another opportunity on Raonic's serve until the Canadian fought off four break points at 5-5.

But Raonic's resistance could not extend to the tie-break.

Djokovic raced 6-1 in front and converted his first match point when Raonic thumped a forehand into the net.

"I knew the return would be key. How many balls I could get in play, get into the rallies and get him moving around the court," Djokovic said.

Djokovic doesn't lose sight of victory - despite contact lens trouble

Djokovic wears contact lenses while he is playing and overcame some irritation with them in the third set before clinching victory.

The seven-time champion nipped off court at 4-4, with Raonic set to serve in the next game, in a bid to solve the problem.

Raonic questioned whether his opponent should have waited until the changeover, saying "I don't have contact lenses but I could just say I do to go off court."

Djokovic apologised to Raonic when he returned and again after the match.

"I want to apologise to Milos once again because it is not something you see often," Djokovic said.

"It was not intentional or tactical but it was something I had to do because I couldn't see too much."

The issue still appeared to be causing problems for the Serb, who was often widening his eyes and blinking when he came back on court.

He called the trainer out for some more eye drops before the problem eased and he was able to tee up a 50th meeting with his great rival Federer.

Djokovic pays emotional tribute to Bryant

Afterwards, Djokovic paid tribute to American basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Djokovic, who wore the initials 'KB' on his tracksuit during the warm-up, described Bryant as his "mentor" and "friend" in an emotional post-match interview on Rod Laver Arena.

Fighting back the tears, he said: "It really caught us by surprise.

"Kobe was one of the greatest athletes of all time and inspired me and many other people around the world.

"I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years and when I needed advice he was there for me.

"It is just heartbreaking to see what has happened with him and his daughter."