Sunday 17 November 2019

Thriller in store as Wawrinka & Djokovic set up showdown

Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland prepares to hit a return to Kei Nishikori of Japan during their men's singles quarter-final match at the Australian Open
Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland prepares to hit a return to Kei Nishikori of Japan during their men's singles quarter-final match at the Australian Open

Nigel Whittaker

After booking a much-anticipated semi-final with his Australian Open usurper Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic wasted little time reminding the Swiss of the heavy burden that goes with being defending champion.

Djokovic's three-year reign at Melbourne Park was ended by the Swiss last January in an epic five-set quarter-final.

The previous year, Djokovic had to fend off Wawrinka in another nerve-jangling marathon in the fourth round.

The top-seeded Serb ensured there would be a third instalment of their blockbuster series Down Under by thrashing eighth seed Milos Raonic 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2 under the lights after Wawrinka dismantled fifth seed Kei Nishikori in the earlier quarter-final yesterday.

Djokovic praised Wawrinka's impressive win over Nishikori, having watched it closely, but was also glowing about his own form ahead of the showdown with the player who ended his run of 14 consecutive grand slam semi-finals in Melbourne last year.

"He played a great match," Djokovic said. "Kei has been playing his best tennis in the last 12 months. To be able to win straight sets against him is pretty impressive.

"Being the defending champion, obviously he's got some of the pressure here. He is facing this kind of role for the first time in his life."

Already in scintillating form, Djokovic raised his level again in routing Raonic, who was supposed to offer the first real test for the Serb.

He cancelled out the Canadian's formidable serve with a clinical returning game, breaking him three times while not giving up a single break point from his own racquet. The four-times champion has not lost a set during the tournament and has been broken only once.

A Russia-United States final is guaranteed in the women's singles after Serena Williams and Madison Keys won their quarter-finals to set up a match between the two Americans in today's semi-finals. The other semi-final is an all-Russian confrontation between Maria Sharapova and Ekaterina Makarova.

Keys reached her first Grand Slam semi-final by grinding out a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory over Venus Williams. Keys took a medical time-out in the second set after a recurrence of a thigh injury, but the 19-year-old returned to win a tight deciding set.

An under-the-weather Serena Williams had less trouble overcoming Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2 despite coughing throughout.

Irish Independent

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