• Indian Wells

Djokovic makes light work of Benneteau

ESPN staff
March 14, 2014
Novak Djokovic has lost in the semi-finals at Indian Wells twice in the last two years © Getty Images

For the first time in four years, Novak Djokovic is without a big title to start the year. Or any title.

The Serb is used to arriving at Indian Wells with the Australian Open in his back pocket, having won the season's first grand slam three straight years. He lost in the quarter-finals in Melbourne in January, and then lost in the semis in Dubai.

"That is a different feel from previous years," he said.

So Djokovic is especially eager to hoist the trophy at Indian Wells, where he's a two-time champion. He took a step toward that goal with a 6-1 6-3 quarter-final victory against Julien Benneteau in just over an hour.

"I'm on the right path and playing semi-finals, which is always of course a challenge and a good result," he said, "but I want to try to go as far as I can."

Djokovic never faced a break point on his serve against Benneteau, the only unseeded player left in the men's draw. The Serb held break points on Benneteau's serve in seven of eight games, and broke him four times during the match played in near 90-degree temperatures.

It was Djokovic's easiest match so far. He needed three sets to get by Marin Cilic and Alejandro Gonzalez, and had to win a tiebreaker against Victor Hanescu in his opening match.

"I felt like I was very focused on the court from the start, and it's what I was looking for. First few matches I played good tennis but I had some ups and downs," Djokovic said. "He made a lot of unforced errors, and obviously I just needed to make him play an extra shot and serve well."

Djokovic, a two-time champion at Indian Wells, will play 12th-seeded John Isner, who fired 13 aces to beat 20th-seeded Ernests Gulbis 7-6(4) 7-6(3).

Isner was broken twice to trail 4-2 in the second. He broke back at 5-5 and after Gulbis tied it six-all, Isner dominated the second tie-breaker.

Roger Federer and Alexandr Dolgopolov face off in the other semi-final.

In the women's event, top seed Li Na was stunned in straight sets by Italy's Flavia Pennetta, the No.20 seed. Pennetta took the first set in a tiebreak before completing a 7-6(5) 6-3 victory.

She will now face second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat sixth-seeded Simona Halep 6-3 6-4 on Friday to reach Sunday's final for the first time in eight appearances.

"I've been here so many times and finally I did it," Radwanska said.

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