For a good 45 minutes Novak Djokovic looked like the scary, XBox-ish Nole of 2011 during a 6-2, 7-6 win over the in-form David Ferrer Thursday night in the Miami Tennis Masters quarterfinal.
Djokovic came out fully focused and dialed-in against Ferrer, hammering the Spaniard to breeze to a 6-2 first set. Ferrer picked up his play in the second, pushing Djokovic. The Serb got a break but like Rafael Nadal 24 hours earlier, he couldn’t put his opposition away when serving for the match at 5-4. Djokovic, though, didn’t get down settling the match in the breaker, 7-1.
“He’s like a wall on the court. Gets a lot of balls back. He always makes you play an extra shot,” said Djokovic who won 10 straight in Miami. “So that’s something that I was expecting. He was more than impressive, especially in his last match against del Potro. I needed to play well and aggressive and step into the court from the first point. That’s what I did.”
Overall, it was one of Djokovic’s best performances and it came at a time when he needed it most. After losses in Dubai and Miami, maybe some doubts were creeping in. But Djokovic showed some of the old form from 2011 that made him so tough to beat.
Tomorrow night, Djokovic, who should be in groove from all the groundstrokes he hit against Ferrer, plays another claycourter in Juan Monaco.
The Argentine celebrated his 28th birthday by pounding Mardy Fish 6-1, 6-3 to reach the semifinals.
“It was unbelievable,” said Monaco. “I think the way to celebrate my birthday, playing like this like I did today, [I] feel proud and very happy [to] be here on my birthday.”
Fish, who was a Miami semifinalist a year ago, really looked hapless out there out times. So bad it prompted former U.S. Davis Cup captain and ESPN commentor Patrick McEnroe to say that he’d never seen Fish play worse.
“He did a lot of things well today,” said Fish. “I think more than anything else, he shrunk the court extremely well with his movement, and that’s why I think you saw a ton of errors from me.”
Monaco is a hot player having just whipped Andy Roddick and Fish. And he’ll have fair amount of support at the “Latin American Slam”, but if Djokovic plays like he did tonight Juan will have zero chance.
Djokovic’s won all four meetings with Monaco losing only one set. And as the defending champion I don’t think Djokovic lets down this deep into the tournament. Yes, I think he’ll be holding the trophy up again on Sunday.
In the earlier semifinal, it’s a blockbuster meeting between longtime rivals Nadal and Andy Murray. Both guys come into Friday’s showdown with question marks and concerns.
By his own admission, Nadal just hasn’t been playing great and his knee is again an issue.
And if not for an indigestion tablet, Murray might have been watching this semifinal from his TV. The Scot did pull through in the end against Janko Tipsarevic in three sets, but it was a sloppy effort.
Rafa leads 13-5 in this series including three comprehensive wins in Grand Slam play last year. Murray did win their last meeting going away 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the Tokyo final last fall. And with knee doubts for Nadal and Lendl’s influence, I’ll reluctantly tip Murray.
“I’ve always quite enjoyed playing him on hard courts,” Murray said of Nadal. “He’s obviously very tough for everybody. He’s played well here the last couple of years. I think it’s a good, good court for him, pretty good conditions. He’s obviously playing some good tennis. You know, semis singles last week and won the doubles. So he’s played a lot, you know, after taking quite a long break.”
The women’s final is set and a new champion will be crowned as Maria Sharapova meets Agnieszka Radwanska collide on Saturday. Sharapova pulled out a tough win over the improving Caroline Wozniacki. And Radwanska continued her hot form ousting Marion Bartoli in a match that was so bad it caused the lights to go out.
ESPN2 will have live coverage of the both semifinals at 3pm ET and at 7pm.
FRIDAY MIAMI SCHEDULE
STADIUM Start 12:45 pm
Vania King (USA)/Monica Niculescu (ROU) v  Maria Kirilenko (RUS)/Nadia Petrova (RUS)
Not Before 3:00 PM
 Andy Murray (GBR) v  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Starting at 7:00 PM
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Juan Monaco (ARG)
 Sara Errani (ITA)/Roberta Vinci (ITA) v [WC] Gisela Dulko (ARG)/Paola Suarez (ARG)
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