Federer, Nadal, Clijsters, Azarenka In Semis

Australian Open 2012
By Hiland Doolittle, January 24th, 2012

Roger Federer not only disposed of his biggest threat to date in the 2012 Australian Open, but he did so in such a manner that it resembled a skilled physician dissecting a patient.

Roger Federer in the Semifinals of Australian Open 2012

Roger Federer in the Semifinals of Australian Open 2012

The Swiss legend added one more page to a lifetime of memories by efficiently disposing of the 11 seed, hulking Juan Martin Del Potro in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

The Argentine has been playing his best tennis since returning from the wrist surgery that caused him to miss most of 2010 and 2011. A filled Rod Laver Arena was dazzled by Federer’s pinpoint accuracy and surgical effort. Every stroke was testimony to his greatness.

Del Potro has the complete game; a big serve, thunderous ground strokes and is a physical presence that can be intimidating. What became apparent is that Roger has seen it all before and he knew precisely what had to be done.

The Swiss won a phenomenal 89 percent of his first serves. That’s right, 89 percent! He lost one service game in the three sets and broke the hard-serving Argentine 5 times. Federer had just 22 unforced errors and an impressive 38 outright winners. Sometimes, the numbers do not reflect the challenge, but on Day 8, let it be known that Roger Federer once again established himself as a serious threat to take home the gold.

From the start, Roger was pumped for this battle. After the match, he admitted, “I knew the danger of playing Juan Martin, so potentially it was my big test. But, I kind of looked at the Tomic match as a big test for me.” If Tomic and Del Potro want a piece of the Swiss, they would be better off surprising him.

As it is, Federer has now reached 31 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals. He has won all but three of those quarterfinal matches. Tennis fans need to think about that. 31 consecutive quarterfinals against the best crop of tennis players to wield a racket! Amazing! Winning all but 3 of those 31 matches? Impossible! This consummate professional knows how to charge his batteries. Miraculous is the Swiss!

When Federer claimed the second set, he emitted a roar; not your usual Roger Federer. Roger wanted this one. He may be 30, but he has not lost a set in Melbourne. He is riding a long winning streak and he is well tuned for Rafa Nadal in the semis and either Djokovic or Murray in the finals.

Rafael Nadal Shoots Down Tomaz Berdych

Rafa Nadal, the two seed, and Tomaz Berdych, the 7 seed, collided on Day 8. Four hours and 16 minutes later they shook hands. Rafa moved into the semis with a hard-fought 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3 marathon. Berdych provided resistance and for a while carried the play. His 6’5” frame gives him remarkable wingspan and a booming serve.

After winning the first set tiebreaker, Berdych missed a set point in the second set. That proved to be a costly missed opportunity. In the tiebreaker, Nadal found his game. He would later explain that Berdych’s heavy and flat ball kept him out of rhythm the entire match.

The match was marred with poor and controversial line calls. The frustration definitely disrupted the flow of the match and the concentration of both combatants.

Nadal warmed to the match and earned a break in the fifth game of the third set. He served out the set. In the final set, Rafa broke in the first game and made it stand.

Nadal landed 71 percent of his first serves and won 76 percent of first serve points. However, Berdych won more than 50 percent of the Spaniard’s second serves. This match was about power and muscle. The players showed plenty of both. By the end, Rafa was a better player than when the match began. His semifinal pairing with Federer promises to be another battle royale.

Kim Clijsters Dusts Off Caroline Wozniacki

Dane Caroline Wozniacki is a better player than she was last year. She has improved her serve, she is always fit and competitive but in this era, she lacks the power to counter her aggressive opponents. Caroline Wozniacki climbed the ranks to earn her well-deserved number one seed but she is poised to tumble backwards.

The top billing will now be bestowed upon Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova or Maria Sharapova. But, it was Kim Clijsters who stole the crown. As a dangerous 11 seed, Clijsters once again showed the grit and competitive fire it takes to win a Grand Slam. Her remarkable win against China’s Li Na will be logged in the annals of the Australian Open.

Her dismissal of Wozniacki was more clinical. If Clijsters’ ankle was troubling her, it was not apparent. Her lateral movement was good and she seemed to move vertically without pain.

To her credit, Wozniacki may have been outgunned, but she embraced the challenge and fought her way back into the match after being at death’s door.

Caroline does not have the power game of the other top players, but she has game and a big heart. She won 65 percent of Clijsters’ second serves. She broke serve 4 of 5 opportunities. She committed 26 errors to Clijsters’ 40. But, she only hit 13 outright winners compared to Kim’s 39.

Clijsters only converted 6 of 13 break points. Yet, she seemed to be in control most of the match. In the 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory, Caroline played well enough to beat moist of then players in the field, but this one had Kim’s name on it from the start. The Belgian will now face Victoria Azarenka in the semis.

Victoria Azarenka in the Semifinals of Australian Open 2012

Victoria Azarenka in the Semifinals of Australian Open 2012

After defeating the game’s two best retrievers, Wozniacki and Li, Kim will need to bring out her A game to get past Azarenka, who downed her close friend Agnieska Radwanska in the other quarterfinal.

Azarenka struggled with the heat and her opponent, who stormed through the first set tiebreaker in love. After losing the seven points in the tiebreaker, Radwanska appeared poised for the upset.

Azarenka came out storming in the second set and cruised to a 6-0 win. She followed with a dominant 6-2 third set to seal her berth in the semis. Victoria will not have the luxury of being able to lose focus against the Belgian. On the other hand, this semifinal may be just what Victoria needs to evaluate her progress because Kim Clijsters will not give anything away.


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