- Australian Open, Day Nine
Djokovic dispatches Berdych to book Ferrer semi
Defending champion Novak Djokovic overcame a brief blip to book his place in the semi-finals of the Australian Open with a four-set victory over Tomas Berdych on Tuesday.
The world No. 1, drawn against the world No. 6 for the right to face David Ferrer (who had earlier defeated Nicolas Almagro) for a berth in the Melbourne final, paid the price for some woeful serving in the second set - but roared back into the ascendancy after ironing out whatever issue was afflicting him to secure an eventual 6-1 4-6 6-1 6-4 win.
It took all of eight minutes for Djokovic to create his first break point opportunity of the contest, but Berdych fought that off thanks to an unreturnable serve. But the Serbian would not be dissuaded, grinding his rival down before taking the game - and a 2-1 advantage - with a fine backhand winner down the line.
That seemed to rattle the Czech, who dropped his next service game after once again getting worn down by Djokovic's challenging returns. From there it was a matter of time until he would clinch the first set, with the 6-1 scoreline suggesting a rout could be on the cards.
That fear was turned on its head in the second set, however, as Djokovic suddenly faced a barrage of punishment from the Czech as his serve temporarily faltered. With the definding champion's first serve percentage down at 29 per cent for the first two games of the stanza, Berdych made no mistake in picking off a break - an advantage he would hold onto to restore parity.
The set was not clinched without difficulty, Berdych saved four break points in his final service game alone - and that passage of play was a precursor of what was to come, as Djokovic removed the errors from his game and started exploring his full arsenal.
The onslaught was such that Berdych only narrowly avoided a third set bagel, with Djokovic moving within a set of victory a service game after his rival had got on the board.
If a revival was going to happen for Berdych he needed an early break in the fourth, but instead it was Djokovic who got the all-important advantage at 1-1 after a wild forehand from his opponent on 30-40. From there the finish was a formality; Djokovic just about maintaining control on serve and - with an ace on a fourth match point - soon picking up a win he celebrated lustily.
Djokovic will now face David Ferrer in the semi-finals, after the Spaniard showed his trademark resolve to come from two sets down to defeat compatriot Nicolas Almagro 4-6 4-6 7-5 7-6(4) 6-2.
Indeed, Almagro engineered himself into position to serve for the match on no less than three occasions - but every time Ferrer rose to the challenge, breaking his fellow Spaniard - both literally and figuratively - by the time the fifth set came around.
Almagro had never beaten Ferrer prior to their quarter-final meeting, but looked on course to book his first ever grand slam semi-final appearance when 5-4 up in the third set. However, Ferrer rushed around the court to avert disaster and lay the groundwork for a remarkable comeback.
The fourth set tiebreak was the next crucial moment, but Ferrer took advantage of some timidity on his opponent's part to set up a decider.
That promised to be a thrilling conclusion but, when Almagro started to complain of cramp in his leg, it soon became evident that Ferrer would not be tested as he pushed on to complete the comeback.