Australian Open 2012: Djokovic vs. Murray semifinal preview
January 26, 2012 · Print This Article
by: Tom Cochrane
Maria Sharapova stands in the way of Victoria Azarenka and both a maiden Grand Slam and the world number one ranking after the Russian knocked out second seed Petra Kvitova and the Belarusian ended the dream run of defending champion Kim Clijsters in a pair of gripping 3 set semi-finals.
Day 11 Recap
Azarenka has been in dynamic form to start the year, but the big question was whether or not the third seed would crumble under the pressure of just her second Grand Slam semi-final against one of the most experienced players on the WTA Tour. Early on, it seemed as if Azarenka was suffering from no anxiety or nerves whatsoever, stepping up in the court and delivering blows off both wings as Clijsters produced a barrage of unforced errors.
After Azarenka took the opening set 6-4, Clijsters seemed to catapult into action, trimming her errors as her groundstrokes started to hit the lines. Azarenka’s concentration appeared to waver as the Belgian claimed the second set for the loss of a single game. In the deciding set the server had trouble holding sway, with 5 breaks of serve being registered for the set. Eventually, however, it was Azarenka whose greater consistency and vastly improved fitness allowed her to claim victory over a gallant Clijsters, the third seed claiming the decider 6-3.
As if the lure of a Grand Slam title isn’t enough, the winner of Saturday’s women’s final will also claim the top spot in the WTA rankings after Maria Sharapova denied Petra Kvitova a shot at the world number one ranking. Despite serving 10 double faults for the match, Sharapova was able to scrap her way past the talented Czech, coming back from a break down in the final set after the pair had exchanged the opening 2 sets. The Russian was able to withstand an abundance of pressure on her service games in the deciding set, with Kvitova left to rue several missed opportunities. At 4-all in the third, Sharapova managed to hold serve despite ferocious pressure from Kvitova, and then broke her opponent in the next game to record a famous victory, 6-2 3-6 6-4.
And in the biggest match of the tournament to date, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal went head to head in the night session, the two legends vying for a place in Sunday’s men’s final. Federer started the match in fine form, claiming an early break and, while he later relinquished that advantage, the third seed managed to edge out Nadal in the opening set tiebreak. Seemingly on a roll, Federer broke the Spaniard to start the second set, but the match was then turned on its head as Nadal broke back immediately and went on to claim the second set 6-2.
Amazingly, in all of Federer and Nadal’s best of 5 set matches the winner of the third set has gone on to win the match. In this case, it was Nadal who pinched the third set tiebreak, 7 points to 5, and the trend continued, the second seed breaking Federer in the ninth game of the fourth set and closing out the match in the next game, 6-7(5) 6-2 7-6(5) 6-4.
For Nadal, it’s a chance at a second Australian Open that even the Spaniard would have conceded was a long-shot 10 days ago when he was under a major injury cloud. For Federer, it’s another hard loss to take after his US Open defeat to Novak Djokovic last year, even more so given the terrific form the Swiss champ showed against Del Potro.
Match of the Day – Day 12
Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray
Top seed Novak Djokovic started the tournament in scintillating form, racing through his opening round matches. He’s fallen away from that level a bit in his last 2 matches, with Lleyton Hewitt and David Ferrer pushing the world number one in parts. There were a few injury concerns regarding the Serb after he clutched at his hamstring during the Ferrer match, and the Serb also appeared to have trouble with his breathing at certain points during that match. But Djokovic assures us his fitness and health are fine, and I’m tipping the defending champion to rise to the occasion in this match.
Andy Murray has been there or thereabouts in the majors for the last 4 years or so, but his window to step up and win a Grand Slam could well close more quickly than many people suspect. New coach Ivan Lendl had a career that has many parallels in its early stages with that of Murray’s to date, and the Czech legend has clearly been brought into the Murray camp to assist in the big match situations such as this one. There’s no doubt that Murray has the talent to win majors, but in most of the Grand Slam semi-finals and finals Murray has played the Scot hasn’t played anywhere near his best tennis.
The fourth seed needs to adopt an appropriate mindset – one which allows him to stay positive but also to be sufficiently relaxed so that he can produce something approaching his best tennis. He can’t afford to get too emotional – that detracts from his tennis and is very draining to boot. While Murray has the potential, Djokovic has the runs on the board – 4 Grand Slams to his name, including last year’s Australian Open in which he whipped Murray in straight sets in the final. That’s enough for me to back the Serb to come up trumps in this one. Djokovic in 4.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.