For the second straight year and third time overall Novak Djokovic’s road to the Australian Open title takes him through David Ferrer. Djokovic beat Ferrer back at the 2008 Australian Open when the Serb won his first Slam and then again last year in the quarterfinals. Both matches ended in straight sets and both resulted in eventual Djokovic titles.
These two also played last September in a strange one. In the gale force winds, Ferrer raced out to a 5-2 lead in the first set of their US Open “Super Saturday” semifinal clash before a severe storm hit the New York City area late afternoon forcing the tournament to evacuate for the day. Both players returned in much calmer conditions Sunday and Djokovic had his way with the Spaniard beating him in three comfortable sets after surrendering the opener.
The weather tonight shouldn’t be a factor aside from the Melbourne heat. But both guys should be OK even after they each had their struggles. Djokovic was of course pushed to the limit by Stan Wawrinka four days ago and then Ferrer should have lost to Nicolas Almagro who mentally couldn’t convert three chances to serve out the match.
So we are left with the top two seeds in the top half of the draw meeting in the semifinal for a second straight year at the Australian Open.
Their overall head-to-head is heavily in favor of Djokovic 9-5 with Novak having won all four meeting in Slams losing just one set. And unfortunately for Ferrer, I don’t see how he can beat Djokovic in this situation unless Novak is suffering somehow.
“I need to be aggressive on the court, that’s for sure,” Djokovic said looking ahead to Ferrer. “I need to step in and try to be in control of the match, otherwise he makes his own rhythm, he makes his own pace on the court. That’s where he’s very dangerous. He’s a great competitor. He’s somebody that has a lot of respect from all the players because he’s playing so many tournaments and works very, very hard. You can see because he’s basically in his 30s one of the fittest players around and is playing the best tennis of his life in the last 15 months. It’s the semis of a Grand Slam, so I expect a tough match.”
And a tough match it will be, but only to a point. While both guys are two of the fittest on the planet, the difference is power.
As we saw, Wawrinka has the ability to hit winners and so does Berydch, who both can damage Djokovic. But Ferrer just doesn’t have that sustained power to hurt Novak. He can move him around and maybe tire him out (unlikely), but can he hit winners from the corner of the court on a consistent basis? I don’t see it. So unless Novak has a bad day at the office or ate a bucket of gluten for lunch…
The pick: Djokovic in three
Women’s semifinals are on at the moment on ESPN with Sharapova and Li Na. Li Na’s power game is putting Sharapova on her heels. Can she keep it up? In the later match I think Victoria Azarenka stops Sloane Stephens’s Cinderella run pretty handily.
Looking ahead to tomorrow night, no real surprise Roger Federer and Andy Murray meet in the semifinals. Murray’s looked good but he’s been largely untested. Federer has been very sharp against a very tough draw. If Roger serves well I think he’ll get through. But more on that one later.
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