Djokovic, Murray, Kvitova and Sharapova in Semifinals

Australian Open 2012
By Hiland Doolittle, January 25th, 2012

Setting the stage for two brilliant men’s semifinals, Andy Murray and top seed Novak Djokovic won on Day 10 and will join Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer in the semifinals.

Andy Murray will face Novak Djokovic in the Semifinals of Australian Open 2012

The top four seeds are making a habit of moving through the field in Grand Slam events.

Today, that trend continued as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic demonstrated the gap between the consistency of the top four and the rest of the field. In dispatching the fifth seed, David Ferrer, the Australian Open becomes the second consecutive Grand Slam and the third of the last four Grand Slams to see the “big four” reach the semifinals.

Against Djokovic, Ferrer made it clear that he was willing to pay the price of challenging the world’s best player. Using his full repertoire, Ferrer chased down every ball. He kept the Serb from dominating with his array of off speed and twisting deliveries. He did exactly what David Ferrer does and used the same formula that has moved him up the ladder as Spain’s number two.

But, Djokovic does not go away. For lesser talents, “the king’s” level of play is impossible to sustain. The big guy just keeps coming at you. Novak uses a perfectly honed offensive game with sound defense and remarkable court coverage to dominate the field and Grand Slams. In Men’s Tennis, Novak Djokovic is the king of the jungle.

After seizing a hotly contested first set, Djokovic was pressured by Ferrer in the three hour 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-1 contest. Ferrer used the same strategy to put away Novak 6-3, 6-1 in the 2011 World Tour Finals. Djokovic needed all that inspiration to withstand the first two sets.

In the second set, the two exchanged breaks before heading to a tiebreaker, in which the Spaniard rushed to a 4-2 lead. Djokovic was against the ropes but refused to go down. Ferrer made two costly unforced errors and then suffered a stinging cross court forehand to seal the set.

The loss of the tiebreaker seemed to take the wind out of Ferrer. Djoko committed 39 unforced errors and hit 35 outright winners. With each success, Djokovic’s star rises. He will next face a very hot Andy Murray in the semifinals for the top half of the draw.

The winner of the Djokovic – Murray match will move on to play the winner of tonight’s semifinal between Rafa Nadal (2) and Roger Federer.

Despite only landing 44 percent of his first serves, Murray made quick work of Tsonga-killer, Japan’s 24th ranked Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3,6-1 in two hours. Murray has yet to lose a set in Melbourne and appears fit and sharp. It will take all of that plus a better serve to get past King Djokovic.

Sharapova, Kvitova Sharp!

Petra Kvitova Faces Maria Sharapova in the Semifinals of Australian Open 2012

2nd seed Petra Kvitova and 4th seed Maria Sharapova will square off in the bottom bracket semifinals on Friday.

Both players join Victoria Azarenka in their quest for the top WTA ranking. The Friday semifinal will pit last year’s Wimbledon finalists against each other. It was Kvitova’s strong play and victory at Wimbledon that sparked her rise in the rankings.

On Day 10, Sharapova put down surging Russian, Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-3. Makarova, a left hander, may have served a higher purpose by preparing Sharapova for the left handed spin that Kvitova will use.

Maria is certainly one of the most competitive players on the tour. She has displayed a remarkable ability to return serve. Her serve is improved and is now a weapon. Against Makarova, Sharapova landed 77 percent of her first serves and won 71 percent of those points. This improvement is a result of hard work and a commitment to play the game at a high level.

Meanwhile, Kvitova got stubborn resistance from Italy’s 5’5” Sara Errani. The muscular Italian was extraordinarily quick and prolonged points with her uncanny foot speed. Sara lost 6-4, 6-4 but won over the fans at Rod Laver Arena.

She took advantage of Petra’s tendency to hug the baseline by repeatedly using the drop shot to bring Kvitova forward and off the baseline. Breaking serve four times, Errani was effective returning Kvitova’s serve. To win her semifinal match with Sharapova, Kvitova will need to improve her delivery. If there is a better returner in this Grand Slam, she has not shown up yet.

Tonight, Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka will square off in what should be a highly competitive top page semifinal. Azarenka is playing well and has yet to lose a set, but this is familiar territory for the Belgian or “Aussie Kim.”


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