Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating David
Ferrer of Spain in their quarterfinal match at the
Australian Open in Melbourne. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Champion Novak Djokovic overcame a leg strain and
breathing difficulties to grind down David Ferrer 6-4 7-6 6-1
at the Australian Open on Wednesday and set up an intriguing
re-match of last year's final with Andy Murray.
Leading 2-1 in the second set of his quarterfinal against the
Spaniard, Djokovic lurched awkwardly when chasing a ball to
defend a break point, and grimaced in pain as he clutched his
Walking gingerly between points but still in full flight
during play, the world number one survived a pulsating second
set and stunned Ferrer by taking an early break in the third.
The fifth seed doggedly chased down everything thrown at him
but was powerless to stop Djokovic's charge as the Serbian
found his range in devastating form to seal the last set in
30 minutes with an ace.
Djokovic played down his physical troubles and said he would
be fully fit to meet Murray for Friday's semi-final.
"Luckily for me it wasn't something that stayed there for
long time. It was just a sudden pain.
"It's just today I found it very difficult after a long time
to breathe because I felt the whole day my nose was closed a
little bit. I just wasn't able to get enough oxygen.
"But at this stage of the tournament, when you're playing
somebody like David, somebody that... makes you play over
five to 10 shots in the rally, your physical strength and
endurance comes into question.
"I'm really fit and I have no concerns of recovering for the
Scotsman Murray earlier romped to a straight sets victory
over Kei Nishikori in a little over two hours.
While the scoreline may have suggested otherwise, Djokovic
spent two hours and 44 minutes out on court, with much of it
consumed in epic, attritional rallies.
If Murray opted to follow proceedings on TV, he might have
sympathised with Djokovic, having been put through a similar,
if longer, ordeal in a four-set semi-final against Ferrer
That was prelude to a straight sets trouncing by Djokovic in
the final in which the Briton appeared sapped from the toil
of a long tournament.
While Murray was back in his hotel room, a steely-eyed Ivan
Lendl, the Briton's new coach, sat court-side taking notes
and would have been pleased with the way Ferrer pushed
Djokovic hard in a fiery opening set.
Djokovic struck the first blow with a ripping forehand winner
to seal a break in the fifth game, and saved a break point
soon after following a frenetic 34-hit rally.
A booming inside-out forehand sealed the first set for the
Serbian and he raced to 2-0 in the second before suffering
the leg troubles.
Ferrer broke back to lead 3-2, but crumbled with an unforced
error to blow a chance to break Djokovic again and watched in
horror as the struggling Serbian blasted two forehand winners
from the baseline to close out the game.
Djokovic found a second wind to trade service breaks with
Ferrer before the Spaniard surrendered the tiebreak with a
mis-hit forehand that sailed well past the baseline.
With the finish-line in sight, Djokovic unleashed a searing
forehand winner that kissed the line to secure an early break
before blasting two aces when serving for the match.
Looking ahead to his clash with fellow 24-year-old Murray,
Djokovic said: "Our friendship and rivalry, you can call it,
goes a long time back ... Goes (back) to when we were 12 in
France, (our) first tournament. We played a lot of junior
"It's great to see that somebody who you grow up next to is
doing well. This is going to be another great challenge for
both of us," added the Serb, who holds a 6-4 record over