Djokovic ends Ferrer's Open run
Nadal, Spain's final hope in Australia, faces unseeded Tsonga in semis today24 January 2008
MADRID - David Ferrer, the self-proclaimed "worst top-100 player in the history of tennis" is not fooling anyone lately with his self-deprecating humility. Leading up to Wednesday, the Spaniard had gotten to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open - his personal best at the tournament - without breaking much of a sweat. But his dream of reaching his first ever Australian Open semifinal was dashed on Wednesday by the hard-serving, fast-talking Serb Novak Djokovic, who beat Ferrer 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 in just over two hours of play.
Ferrer appeared stunned as things spiralled out of control in the first set and as the winning momentum he had enjoyed during his previous four matches was briskly reversed by the world number three.
Before Wednesday, the Spaniard had dropped only one set in the entire tournament - to compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero in the fourth round - but in his first set against Djokovic at the Rod Laver Stadium, Ferrer could not manage to win a single game, falling behind one set to love in just 23 minutes.
"I started very badly, very nervously, and perhaps it was because of the first set. When I lost it, he played better, and with a lot more confidence in the second," said Ferrer.
The second set fared little better for the Spaniard, who played with increasing confidence, but was unable to overcome his rival's momentum.
In the third, the number five seed fought his way back to a 5-5 tie, after Djokovic missed his 5-4 opportunity to serve out the match. However, the Serb did manage to avoid a tie-break, serving out Ferrer's sentence at the next opportunity.
Calling it a question of lack of "mentality," Ferrer admitted that after his first-set loss, he had trouble getting his head back into the game. The Spaniard also made an uncharacteristic 32 unforced errors and "served very badly at decisive moments."
Djokovic, for his part, was pleased with his performance, which included hitting 14 winners and the game's fastest serve at 210km per hour: "I even surprised myself with the way I played today, especially the first two sets," he said.
The win means Djokovic on Friday will compete in his fourth consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, although he has still never seen the final court at the season's first Grand Slam.
And the bracket handicap of being number three in the world - instead of number two - places tennis' most menacing roadblock, Swiss master Roger Federer, between Djokovic and an easy stab at this career first.
Although the numbers suggest otherwise, Federer was in complete control during his quarterfinal match against the American James Blake, beating him 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, which gave him his 15th straight semifinal spot at a Grand Slam.
And now, despite not having dropped a set in the entire tournament, Djokovic will try to chip away at his 1-5 career losing tally against the Swiss master, something Ferrer - who is 0-8 down against Federer - knows will not be easy.
Admitting that Djokovic is "an incredible player," and that "of course he can win the tournament," Ferrer still pegs either Federer or his compatriot, Rafa Nadal, to take home the tournament trophy on Sunday.
While Nadal's second seeding protects the Spaniard from facing the Swiss player until the final, Nadal will be hoping that Djokovic can muster up some magic and prove Ferrer's prediction wrong for another reason: with Federer's spot already secured in the semifinals, Rafa Nadal's short-lived opportunity to supersede the world number one in the rankings has disappeared.
It is still possible, however, that the two players could end up tied on points come tournament end, if Djokovic beats Federer on Friday, and Nadal takes the trophy on Sunday.
However, to reach the final court on Sunday, Nadal must first overcome the unseeded Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in his semifinal match today.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]
Subject: Spanish news