Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) – Four-time champion Novak Djokovic
handled Milos Raonic, while Stan Wawrinka kept his hopes of a repeat
Australian Open title alive by besting fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori in
straight sets on Wednesday.
The world No. 1 Djokovic dismissed the eighth-seeded Canadian star Raonic
7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-2, while the fourth-seeded Wawrinka fired 20 aces and was
broken just once in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) quarterfinal victory over the U.S.
Open runner-up Nishikori at Rod Laver Arena.
The 27-year-old Djokovic is bidding to become the second man in history to win
the Australian Open for the fifth time, joining Aussie great Roy Emerson. The
Belgrade native won his first major title in Melbourne in 2008 and followed
with three successive victories in 2011-13. He has a 48-6 match record at
Djokovic still has yet to drop a set in his ruthless run at this 2015
fortnight. He is through to his 25th Grand Slam semifinal, one behind Andre
Agassi for the fourth most in the Open Era.
Djokovic improved to 5-0 against Raonic, as he doused the Canadian in two
hours. The Serb was not at his best in the first set, not quite finding his
timing under the lights at Laver. But a costly forehand unforced error from
Raonic at 5-6 in the tiebreak — having just saved two set points — gifted
the Serb the opener.
From there, Djokovic was clinical. He lost just two points on serve in each of
the second and third sets, while breaking Raonic three times in total.
“It was a close first set, but I thought I had more chances in the first set
than him,” said Djokovic. “Managed to stay tough in the right moments and win
the crucial first set. Obviously winning it in a tiebreak and making the
break of serve first game of the second set was definitely huge really for me.
I could start swinging through a little bit more, be more aggressive into the
court. After that first game of the second set I played a great match.”
The 24-year-old Raonic was looking to become the first Canadian in history to
reach the Aussie Open semis. The Toronto resident reached his first Grand Slam
semi last year at Wimbledon, losing to Roger Federer.
“I just think [the first set] gave him a bit more belief,” said Raonic. “I
wish I would have served better in certain moments, but I didn’t lose because
of my serve. He just didn’t allow me to organize my game. Even when he was
returning well, by the end of the match he was doing a good job of playing
deep and never allowing me to go forward. Obviously if you watch the footage,
he was pretty much on the baseline the whole time and I was further back.”
The reigning Wimbledon champion Djokovic is seeking an eighth Grand Slam
A five-set thriller was played between Wawrinka and Nishikori at last year’s
U.S. Open, and it was Nishikori who survived a 4-hour, 15-minute marathon.
The evenly-matched opponents were on the court for less than half that on
The defending champ Wawrinka dominated the first set and did not face a
break point until he was serving out the second ahead 5-4. Nishikori had
three chances at pulling even, but Wawrinka’s overpowering serve closed it
Nishikori finally earned a break early in the third, but Wawrinka countered
with one of his own at love. Three aces early in the tiebreak helped Wawrinka
jump out to a healthy 6-1 lead.
After staving off five match points, Nishikori hit a drop shot that fell into
the net, and Wawrinka finished him off with another big ace.
On Friday, fans will be hoping for another epic when Djokovic faces Wawrinka
for the third year in a row at Melbourne Park. Two years ago, Djokovic denied
Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set of a fourth-round clash, but last year the
Swiss got his revenge with a 9-7 fifth-set victory in the quarterfinals.
“I take a lot of confidence [into the match],” said Djokovic. “I try to carry
that in every next match, next challenge. Obviously I’m going to play Stan,
who is the defending champion here. We played five-set matches at the 2013 and
’14 Australian Opens. I’m going to be ready for a fight. But knowing that I
have raised the level of performance tonight, and probably playing the best
match of the tournament so far is affecting my confidence in a positive way.
Hopefully I can carry that into next one.”
Djokovic is 16-3 lifetime against Wawrinka, including a 3-1 record at the
The first men’s semifinal will be staged on Thursday when sixth-seeded Andy
Murray takes on seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych. The big Czech is 6-4 lifetime
against Murray, including 1-1 at the Slams.
Murray is a two-time Grand Slam champion and three-time Aussie Open runner-up,
while Berdych is a former Wimbledon finalist.