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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Novak Djokovic gains Aussie final


MELBOURNE, Australia -- Two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic advanced to his third consecutive Australian Open final with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 4-seeded David Ferrer on Thursday night. The top-ranked Djokovic was in dominating form, hitting 30 crisp winners in the 1-hour, 29-minute match. He is aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles. "I played perfectly," he said in a postmatch TV interview. "I played incredible tennis." On Sunday, he'll meet the winner of Friday's semifinal between No. 2-ranked Roger Federer, a four-time Australian champion, and U.S. Open winner Andy Murray, who is ranked No. 3. Djokovic, who is now unbeaten in five Grand Slam head-to-heads with Ferrer, allowed his opponent only four points in the first four games of the last set to strangle any chance of a comeback. Djokovic was stretched to five sets in a 5-hour, 2-minute fourth-round match against Stanislas Wawrinka, then lost a set against Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. But the hard-serving Djokovic was at his sublime best on Thursday night, converting all of seven break-point chances while not facing any on his serve. Now unbeaten in five Grand Slam head-to-heads with Ferrer, he allowed his opponent only four points in the first four games of the last set. "I felt very comfortable and very confident from the start," he said. "I wanted to be aggressive on the court. This is definitely one of the best performances I ever had in my career." Ferrer double-faulted to set up match point, then lost the match on the following point when he floated a backhand long. The Spaniard was pleased to have made it as far as he did in the tournament. "I prefer to play worse in a semifinal than in the first round," Ferrer said. "Of course, I am not happy with my game tonight, but this is tennis." With such a light workout during his match, Djokovic went back out to center court at Rod Laver Arena an hour later during a legends doubles match involving his friend, retired Frenchman Henri Leconte. To much laughter from the crowd, Djokovic, dressed in a mock medical costume, pretended to give Leconte treatment at the side of the court. Later, he was all business while talking about the final against either Federer or Murray. "It can only do positive things to my confidence at this stage of the tournament," Djokovic said of his easy win. "I have a great feeling about myself at the moment." Djokovic lost only seven points in 11 service games against Ferrer, and hit 30 crisp, clean winners in an almost flawless performance. "I cannot remember the last time I played so well," Djokovic said. "I've played many great matches, but this one stands out. Hopefully, I can play the same level on Sunday." He played confidently in the first two sets, and was sublime in the third. Even Ferrer, who has now lost five Grand Slam semifinals and never reached a championship match, was surprised. After hitting a forehand a fraction wide of the line and losing his challenge in a review, Ferrer double-faulted to give Djokovic match point. The errors were a measure of just how much pressure Djokovic was applying. Right after his semifinal, Djokovic started playing mind games leading to the final. "Federer-Murray, when they're playing it's always very close," he said, confirming he'd be closely watching the match. "I wouldn't give the role of the favorite to either of them. I expect to enjoy it. Whoever I play against, I'm going to be ready."