Thursday, January 24, 2013
Djokovic all about punctuality
By Bonnie D. Ford
MELBOURNE, Australia -- It was masterful. It was stress-free. And best of all for Novak Djokovic, his Thursday Australian Open semifinal against David Ferrer, one of the most energy-consuming opponents in men's tennis, was short.
Djokovic routed the normally hard-to-put-away Spaniard 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 89 minutes, losing only seven points on his serve the entire night, and made the second-to-last obstacle in his bid to win a third straight title and fourth overall here look more like an early-round mismatch.
The world No. 1 thus bought himself a few more hours of rest and time to concentrate ahead of Sunday's championship match, in which he'll meet one of two extremely familiar and difficult rivals, second seed Roger Federer or third seed Andy Murray.
Djokovic and Federer have played 29 times, with Federer holding a 16-13 edge, but only once in the final of a major. That was at the 2007 U.S. Open, Djokovic's first Grand Slam final, won by Federer in straight sets. They've played five Grand Slam semis in the past two seasons alone. By contrast, Murray and Djokovic, born days apart in May 1987, already have played for two major titles in their 17 meetings, with Murray prevailing last year in New York for his breakthrough Grand Slam championship.
The Serb was magnanimous in victory over Ferrer. "Definitely at this stage of a tournament, playing semifinals against the world No. 4, somebody that I have respect for, great competitor, and being able to perform as well as I did, it's incredible,'' he said.
"I definitely prefer being fitter for the final and having a little bit more time than I had in 2012,'' Djokovic said, referring to his grueling five-set win over Murray last year. "It's quite different circumstances that I have to face this time. You know, last year I played five hours in semis and had only a day and a half to recover for another six hours with [Rafael] Nadal. This year it hasn't been the case, and I'm very glad. Had some really physically tough matches in this tournament, and I'm glad that I went through it.''
Djokovic was severely tested by stubborn and at times brilliant play by Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in the round of 16. Wawrinka kept Djokovic on the court for five hours before the two-time defending champion won an extended fifth set in the wee hours of the morning.
Ferrer, seeded fourth owing to the extended injury absence of Rafael Nadal, did not look like a man ready to crack the entrenched hierarchy on the men's tour. He was coming off a rugged five-set defeat of the next-highest-ranked Spanish player, 10th seed Nicolas Almagro, but predictably brushed off any speculation that he was sapped by that effort.
"I didn't have any chance for to win tonight,'' Ferrer said.
"It was a good three weeks and I'm very happy for that, no? Of course, I am not happy with my game tonight, but this is tennis, no? I prefer [to] play worst in semifinal than in first round.''
Djokovic was fresh enough to return to Rod Laver Arena for some improv comedy during the legends doubles match that followed his, donning a doctor's white jacket and administering "treatment'' to French icon Henri Leconte. "The diagnosis we determined with my assistant is that he's definitely crazy,'' Djokovic said.