Wednesday January 23, 2013
No worries for Djokovic
SUPER-FIT reigning champion Novak Djokovic shrugged off the exertions of his five-hour epic with Stanislas Wawrinka as he booked an Australian Open semi-final with David Ferrer yesterday.
The world No. 1, showing no ill-effects from his late-night showdown 48 hours earlier, suffered a second-set lapse against Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych but was never seriously troubled in the 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win.
The resilient Serb, who came through a record five-hour-53-minute final against Rafael Nadal last year, said he was glad to get the job done against Berdych in two hours 31 minutes – exactly half the length of his match with Wawrinka.
“It was a great performance. I was hoping to have a shorter match, whoever wins tonight, not to go over five hours,” he said.
“It’s always going to be tough against Tomas.”
While Djokovic will face Ferrer, in the women’s competition Maria Sharapova set up a showdown with China’s Li Na as she roared into the semi-finals for the record loss of only nine games.
The world No. 2 swamped her latest victim, fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2 in a quickfire one hour six minutes, continuing her blistering start to the season.
Sharapova was forced to pull out of her warm-up tournament with injury, hitting up with Australian junior boys instead, but she has been remorseless in her rampage to the last four at Melbourne Park.
Her record of losing just nine games in five matches obliterates the 22-year-old tournament record of Monica Seles, who dropped 12 en route to the 1991 semi-finals.
Despite the scoreline, the four-time Grand Slam winner insisted it had been close against Makarova, against whom she has never lost in five matches.
“No matter what our record is, we always have close matches,” she said.
“It was quite close in the beginning today, we exchanged breaks of serves, but I think I ended up being the more aggressive player.
“Today was a matter of staying focused because I know how excited she was to play me.”
However, Sharapova, 25, will face her sternest test yet against Li Na , who halted the 13-match unbeaten run of Agnieszka Radwanska to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final since she won the 2011 French Open.
Li Na, the world No. 6, became the first player this year to take a set off the Polish fourth seed when she edged a tight opener containing seven breaks of serve.
Radwanska came storming back by winning eight straight points to take the first two games of the second set to love. But Li Na then rattled off five consecutive games before serving it out for a 7-5, 6-3 win.
“She’s a tough player. I felt like I was against a wall today. She can hit everywhere, but without any mistakes,” said Li Na.
“I felt it was just very tough. You have to focus on every shot. Not every point, every shot. If you hit like slow or like short one, she’ll attack.”
Meanwhile, Ferrer clawed back from two sets down after his fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro blew a golden chance to reach his first Major semi-final in 34 attempts.
Tenth seed Almagro outplayed the world No. 5, whom he has never beaten, in the opening two sets and served for the match three times, only to falter on each occasion.
Ferrer seized the lifeline and finished too strongly for his Davis Cup team-mate, clinching it with two service breaks in the fifth set as he won 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 in three hours 44 minutes.
“It was a miracle that I won this match. Nicolas had a lot of chances to beat me and I tried to fight for every point,” Ferrer said.
“I know all the players in important moments are nervous. Today I was close to losing, but finally I come back.”
Today, Roger Federer and Andy Murray will bid to contest the other men’s semi-final when they take on Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jeremy Chardy respectively.
Serena Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka are on collision course in the other half of the women’s draw and will play Sloane Stephens and Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the semi-finals. — AFP