Melbourne, 28 January 2011 | AAP

Roger Federer joined Rafael Nadal on the Australian Open scrapheap as third seed Novak Djokovic outplayed the defending champion in straight sets to book a spot in the men’s singles final.

Djokovic swept aside Federer 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 6-4 in their semi-final – another Open surprise after top seed Nadal’s shock injury-induced quarter-final exit to David Ferrer the previous day.

The only injury in evidence at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday night was to Federer’s pride, as the Serbian 23-year-old shone brightest in a three-hour match of rarefied quality.

Djokovic won a tense 57-minute first set in a tie-break – Federer’s one loose shot of the set to go 3-1 down in the breaker proving the turning point.

Federer then raced to a 5-2 second set lead and a long night of trading sets looked assured.

But Djokovic raised his level even higher – some feat considering the standard from both players to that point – and won the next five games to stun Federer and grab a two-set advantage.

Djokovic grabbed an early third set service break, but Federer kept fighting and broke the Serb to level at 4-4.

Then Djokovic finally snuffed out the Swiss champion with a break in the next game to ensure a second successive upset of Federer at a major following his US Open semi-final triumph last year.

The defeat leaves Federer without a Grand Slam trophy in his keeping for the first time since 2003 – and gives Djokovic a chance to add a second major to his 2008 Australian Open win.

Djokovic will play the winner of Friday night’s semi-final between Ferrer and Briton Andy Murray in Sunday’s final.

Djokovic believes his Australian Open 2011 performance – in which he has only dropped one set en route to the final – will provide the right springboard for the rest of a year in which he hopes to regularly challenge the Nadal-Federer duopoly.

“This two weeks is the most important of the year. This is where I want to set myself up for the rest of the year,” Djokovic said.

“It’s good for the sport to have more players able to win against Federer and Nadal.

“They’re great examples of champions, especially in these matches where they play their best tennis.

“It’s one of the best matches I’ve played definitely. I’ve been playing my best tennis in this tournament.”

Federer twice had discussions with chair umpire Enric Molina during changes of ends in the second and third sets.

But while he was evasive about what was discussed, Federer shrugged off any suggestion of dissatisfaction with Djokovic’s tactics or distractions from the crowd.

“He played a great match. I didn’t think that I played that bad myself – it was a match played at a very high intensity,” Federer said.

“Novak was the best player tonight – sometimes you’ve just got to accept that.”