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Men's final gets different look

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer saved a parting shot for anyone who thinks his time is up and a changing of the guard in tennis awaits.

"Yeah, I mean, they say that very quickly. Let's talk in six months again," he said.

The heavily hyped duel between Federer and Rafael Nadal will not happen in Melbourne, opening a rare window for someone else.

Federer, the defending champion, lost to Novak Djokovic, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-4, in the Australian Open semifinals Thursday night. It marks the first time since 2008 neither of tennis' most dominant men will play in a Grand Slam final. Less than 24 hours earlier, an ailing Nadal's pursuit of a Rafa Slam evaporated in a quarterfinal loss to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

Djokovic will play Ferrer or Andy Murray in the final.

Federer and Nadal have combined to win 21 of the last 23 majors. This is also the first time since 2003 that Federer, a 16-time Grand Slam winner, will not hold at least one of the four major trophies.

The Swiss great was outplayed by Djokovic, who reveled in the cooler night weather. It was the second straight time Federer has lost to the Serb -- he had match points before losing in the U.S. Open semifinals.

"It's disappointing and it hurts in the moment itself," Federer said. "I wish I could have won here again for the fifth time. But it wasn't possible tonight. It's not the end in any way. It's a start for many other tournaments after this."

Federer said he didn't play the key points well. He fell behind quickly in the first-set tiebreaker on backhand errors, giving Djokovic four set points.

In the second set, he got a break. Djokovic was scrambling, twice tumbling to the court and losing his racket as he tried to stay in rallies. But Federer, so used to moving in for the kill, let a 5-2 lead slip and dropped the set. From there it was just about over.

"Every time I had slight opportunity, either I didn't play my best or he played his best," Federer said. "It was a tough night from this standpoint. Those are sometimes the way matches go."

Nadal limped away from his match, saying he had a small muscle tear in his upper left leg and casting doubt on his readiness for at least a few weeks. Federer has no ailments to speak of.

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