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Reenergized Djokovic Downs Berdych, Will Face Ferrer in Semis

Unlucky 13: David Ferrer came back from two sets down to defeat Nicolas Almagro for the thirteenth consecutive time, while Novak Djokovic took down Tomas Berdych in four sets.

By Chris oddo

David Ferrer, 2013 Australian Open (January 22, 2013) -- Novak Djokovic had less than 48 hours to recover from his grueling tussle with Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round. As it turns out, it was plenty of time for the five-time champion to prepare for his quarterfinal with Tomas Berdych.

Djokovic won his 19th consecutive match at the Australian Open, and his 10th straight against the formidable Czech, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

What is Djokovic's secret to keeping himself fresh when other players like Gilles Simon, who played four hours and forty-three minutes in the 3rd round and could barely move in the fourth, seem to have no clue?

"I can't say that," Djokovic told reporters after the match. "Sorry. Have to keep it private."

Early in the match it was clear that whatever secret tactics Djokovic had employed to prepare his body were working. He was quick and efficient in the first set, breaking Berdych three times and taking the early lead in just 28 minutes.

But Berdych hit back in the second, cracking 18 winners and saving all four break points he faced to level the match at a set apiece.

"Well, I mean, we don't play for one set," said a disappointed Berdych afterwards. "One set was not enough."

Djokovic, who is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles, answered the bell in the final two sets. He only lost 12 points on serve and did not face another break point from the Czech.

"I felt good enough to go another five hours," said Djokovic, "but I wasn't really thinking about it."

Djokovic, who has now played two of the four longest matches in Australian Open history, can take solace in the fact that he saved some energy during the two hours and thirty-one minutes spent on court with Berdych. He may need it for his next opponent, David Ferrer.

Ferrer won his thirteenth consecutive match against his countryman and good friend Nicolas Almagro in the first men's match on Tuesday in Melbourne. The victory was also his 500th career ATP win. After falling behind against a storming Almagro, Ferrer found his game just in the nick of time to engineer a comeback win in five sets, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-2.

The loss was a heartbreaker for Almagro, who served for the match in the third set, and twice in the fourth set.

"I don't know if it was or not," Almagro said when asked if this was the closest he'd ever come to defeating the indefatigable Ferrer. "But today was a big opportunity for me. Well, I'm going to be ready for the next."

Almagro played beautifully in the first two sets, serving big and controlling play with a deadly backhand down the line that sailed past Ferrer for winners on many occasions. In the third set he looked to be headed to an easy victory before Ferrer rallied.

But staring at the finish line, Almagro faltered. Ferrer, the shark who smelled blood in the water, kept up the chase.

In a wild fourth set that featured 8 breaks of serve, Almagro couldn't summon the type of serving he had been able to produce in the first half of the match. Was it the pressure? "I don't want to think it's a mentality problem," said Almagro. "If it's a mentality problem I think I didn't win the first two sets."

After failing to close it out, things got worse in a hurry for Almagro. He came up lame in the tiebreker, badly favoring his left leg after landing funny on the court after hitting a forehand. He would tell reporters later that it was an adductor problem. Medical staff treated him on court, but it was clear in the final set that his left leg was hampering his ability to retrieve.

Against a grinder like Ferrer, one who is so well-versed in such wars of attrition, Almagro’s hopes looked dim in the fifth set.

Ferrer, ever the opportunist, kept the pressure on Almagro, finally breaking him down to win the last four games to earn his fifth trip to a Grand Slam semifinal.

"Today I was close to losing for sure, but I finally come back, no?" a relieved Ferrer said. "And in the fifth, he was cramping, problems with his leg, so it was easier for me."

Ferrer will face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. He owns a 5-9 career record against Djokovic, but has lost the last three to the Serb, including a straight-sets defeat at last year's Australian Open quarterfinal.


(Photo Credit: AFP/Patrick Kovarik)

 

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