Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates defeating Tomas Berdych
of Czech Republic in their men's singles quarter-final
match at the Australian Open in Melbourne. REUTERS/Scott
Serbian superman Novak Djokovic remains firmly on course
for a third straight Australian Open title after dismantling
Tomas Berdych in four sets to set up a last four meeting with
Spanish comeback king David Ferrer.
Showing no signs of fatigue from the grinding five-hour duel
with Stanislas Wawrinka that ended in the early hours of
Monday morning, Djokovic defused the big Czech's big serve
6-1 4-6 6-1 6-4 to progress comfortably to his 11th
successive grand slam semi-final.
Maria Sharapova was just as impressive as she continued a
ruthless march through the women's draw with a 6-2 6-2
savaging of Ekaterina Makarova, while Li Na ended Agnieszka
Radwanska's winning streak to continue her love affair with
Ferrer staged what he described as a miraculous comeback from
two sets down to beat fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 4-6 4-6
7-5 7-6 6-2 but immediately said he would need something even
more spectacular if he was to get to his first grand slam
Living up to his reputation as the fittest player on the
tour, world number one Djokovic returned with his usual
deftness and moved his 6ft 5in (1.96m) opponent around the
The 25-year-old whipped through the first set against fifth
seed Berdych quicksmart, stalled only a little as he lost the
second before racing to victory in two and a half hours,
sealing the win with his 10th ace.
"It was a great performance," Djokovic said. "I was hoping to
have a shorter match and not go over five hours like the last
"It is always going to be tough against Tomas ... but I came
out and played my best tennis."
Sharapova crushed fellow Russian Makarova in just 66 minutes
to set up a last four appointment with Li at a cost of just
nine games conceded in the tournament, a record low for the
The second seed and 2008 champion relentlessly pummelled
Makarova with a barrage of thumping serves and fierce
forehands, leaving the 19th seed scrapping for dignity by the
"She's playing unbelievable, so aggressive, and just in the
right spot of the court. It's really tough to play against
her now," said Makarova.
"In the end I just was fighting for the games, because I was
thinking that, yeah, it's tough to beat her."
Ferrer stared defeat full in the face three times before
taming Almagro after being dominated by some brilliant tennis
from the 10th seed for the first two sets.
The fourth seed looked to be heading for the exit when he
faced Almagro serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set
but he hustled along the baseline to claw his way back into
Twice more Almagro had chances to serve out for victory but
he blew them both before suffering a leg injury and Ferrer,
who had won all 12 of their previous meetings, emerged a
winner after three hours and 44 minutes.
Ferrer, 30, has lost all four of his previous grand slam
semi-finals, including defeats to world number one Djokovic
at the U.S. Open in 2007 and last year.
"It was a miracle I won this match," said Ferrer. "I tried to
fight and do my best but next round I need to play my best
tennis, better than today," he said.
"Nole is a special player."
Li reached her third semi-final in four years at the
Australian Open with a 7-5 6-3 victory over Radwanska in the
opening match of the day.
Radwanska had come into the contest bursting with confidence
on a run of 13 successive wins but looked underpowered as she
was bludgeoned into submission by Li in the 102-minute
There were 10 service breaks in the 21 games and sixth seed
Li grabbed six of them to set up a contest against Sharapova,
who won all three of their encounters last year.
The former French Open champion clearly likes the bright blue
courts at Melbourne Park, even if she will probably need to
get her unforced error count under the 40 mark if she wants
to reach a second final after 2011.
"I really don't know what it is here," Li said. "It seems
whenever I come down here my results are always quite
consistent, no big setbacks or anything.
"I'm not sure whether it's the winter training but it does
seem like I'm just better at this tournament."
Radwanska, who had not lost a set on her way to the
quarter-finals, said it was possible that she had paid the
price for playing and winning warm-up events in Auckland and
The Pole also thought Li had a good chance against Sharapova.
"I think it's 50/50, to be honest," she said. "They're both
playing very well tennis this week, definitely. For sure it's
going to be good match."