Djokovic out to rock Federer from the offensive

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic is seeking a fast start when he takes on defending champion Roger Federer on Thursday with a place in the Australian Open final at stake.

"Definitely you have to start well," Djokovic said after destroying Thomas Berdych in the quarter-finals. "You have to try to get him on the run as much as you can and try to let him know you're there to win.

"I felt like I'm starting to play my best tennis in the last five, six months," he added. "I have more experience on the court. Physically I'm fit. I'm hitting the ball better and I have more variety in the game.

"Serve has been much better, which is very encouraging fact because it's been an issue for me in the last 12 months."

Though nowhere near the intensity of the Federer-Nadal duel that has defined men's tennis for the last seven years or so, Djokovic has developed something of a rivalry with the 16-times grand slam champion.

Djokovic came out on top at their last grand slam meeting in the semi-finals of last year's U.S. Open, clawing his way back from two match points down to beat the Swiss in five sets.

Federer got a measure of revenge in their last meeting, however, when he crushed Djokovic 6-1 6-4 in the last four of the ATP Tour finals in London last November.

"The U.S. Open was a close match," recalled Federer. "I think I had two match points ... I guess I should have won really. I mean, I was playing good enough to win.

"But I was a bit confused mentally maybe ... maybe I just felt like I have to get out of this match as quick as I could to save energy to play Rafa the next day.

"In the end, it was a shot here and there. He whacked those forehands in the corners the way he had to turn the match.

"He's a quality player who plays really offensive, he takes it to the opponent. I enjoy playing against him because of the shot-making we are able to create really."

Injured world number one's Rafa Nadal shock exit from the tournament on Wednesday means in-form British fifth seed Andy Murray or Spaniard David Ferrer will await the winner in Sunday's final.

(Editing by Martyn Herman)