If this was Tomas Berdych’s best shot to beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, then this Czech is on hold.
Coming off a five-hour match in the previous round against Stan Wawrinka, Djokovic showed an astounding physical recovery to defeated the No. 5-seeded Berdych in roughly half that time 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday.
“I’ve seen him play way better,” said Berdych, who rued his chances. “He played really good today. But the matches before [against me] he played much, much better. It was kind of a chance for me, but I didn’t come up with my best game and that’s what was deciding today.”
Djokovic, still on track for what would be an Open Era record third Australian Open title in a row, will in the semifinals meet No. 4 seed David Ferrer, who came back from a set down and more to beat fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-2.
Almagro served for the match at 5-4 in the third and 6-5 in the fourth, but could not reach match point.
“I’m [disappointed] with the tiebreak, but I need to work more to be ready to play with the top players,” Almagro said. “Today was a big opportunity for me. I’m going to work to be ready for the next.”
Ferrer improved to 13-0 career against Almagro.
“I tried to fight every point, every game,” Ferrer said. “I know all players in important moments are nervous. I try to do my best. Today I was close to losing. But finally I came back.”
Djokovic is 9-5 career versus Ferrer, and won their most recent meeting at the 2012 US Open in the semifinals.
Maria Sharapova bullied her way into the semifinals as she has done against the majority of opponents during this fortnight, on Tuesday defeating Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2.
“She’s beaten quality players over the course of the last week, and I know she’s capable of playing really well, with some deep hitting,” said the No. 2-seeded Sharapova. “Also she’s a lefty, which is a bit tricky.”
Makarova said eventually during the match she simply gave up on beating the former No. 1.
“It’s really tough to play against her right now,” she said. “In the end I just fought for the games, because I already thought it would be tough to beat her. I just tried to get more games.”
Sharapova has now lost only nine games prior to the semifinals, where she will next face No. 6-seeded Li Na of China, who beat softballer Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3.
“I was feeling my legs couldn’t move — when I started serving again at the beginning of the second set I felt like I was totally dying,” Li said. “It was hard to recover, but after two games it started getting better and better.”
After a tight first set, Li eventually broke Radwanska down with her superior power while cutting down on the errors.
“I felt like I was playing against a wall,” Li said. “She can hit everywhere, but without a mistake. You have to focus on every shot. Not even just every point — every shot. And if you hit a slow or a short one, she’ll attack.”
Li and Sharapova will have no problems remembering each other’s games.
“We just played in Beijing,” Sharapova said of Li. “I’ve beaten her the last few times we’ve played, but they’ve always been really good matches, really tough matches. I certainly expect it in the next one too.”
On tap for Wednesday in quarterfinal play is a bonanza of riches featuring (1) Victoria Azarenka vs. former world No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova, (3) Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens in an all-American, (3) Andy Murray vs. Jeremy Chardy, and (7) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. (2) Roger Federer.
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