Wednesday January 25th, 2012

Novak Djokovic beat David Ferrer 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-1 to advance to the Australian Open semifinals. (SIPA)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The last of the quarterfinals played out on Day 10 of the Australian Open, and the favorites advanced with relative ease. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray set up their semifinal matchup, and on the women's side, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova rolled toward a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final. Here's a rundown of what happened Wednesday.

Connect Four: For the second straight Grand Slam tournament and third of the last four, the Fantastic Four make up the semifinals. And as David Ferrer noted, that dominance from Djokovic, Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.

In his quarterfinal loss to Djokovic, Ferrer proved again why he's respected in the locker room as the world No. 5, but never considered a real contender for major titles when the top four are in the mix. He pushed Djokovic for two sets, engaging in 20-plus-stroke rallies that left spectators gasping with neck pains. When Djokovic pulled up with what looked like a tweak of his left hamstring, Ferrer saw an opportunity and started working the No. 1 from line to line. But Djokovic withstood the challenge, and once the match went into a second-set tiebreaker, history repeated itself. Ferrer built a 4-2 lead before dropping his 13th consecutive tiebreaker at the Australian Open. Djokovic cruised from there, showing no ill effects of the hamstring injury and winning 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-1.

Djokovic dismissed any injury talk after the match, saying he was confident he would be fully fit come Friday. "Luckily, it wasn't something that stayed there for a long time," Djokovic said, referring to the hamstring injury. "It was just a sudden pain. I don't have any physical issues."

In the other men's quarterfinal Wednesday, Murray ended Kei Nishikori's history-making run 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 to reach his fifth straight major semifinal. The match was never in doubt, but on the down side for Murray, he served at only 44 percent. The Scot knows where he needs to improve to challenge Djokovic, who dominated him in last year's final.

"I could have served better, that's for sure," Murray said. "I'll need to serve better in the next match."

Women's semifinals set: Sharapova and Kvitova had relatively uneventful wins over two surprise quarterfinalists. Kvitova had the rougher go, rallying from 1-4 in the second set to eliminate Sara Errani 6-4, 6-4. It wasn't exactly the convincing win she wanted, as the No. 2 seed mixed in 44 unforced errors with 36 winners.

As for Sharapova, she served at 77 percent and won 71 percent of first-serve points in a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Ekaterina Makarova. The three-time major winner has shown championship form throughout the tournament. Her matchup against Kvitova is a tough one to call, but I think Sharapova will avenge her loss at Wimbledon. Different surface, different result. (Click here for my preview of the women's semifinals.)

Photo of the day

A view of Rod Laver arena during Djokovic's quarterfinal match vs. Ferrer. (US Presswire)

Go figure

5... Consecutive Slam semifinals for Andy Murray.

499... Career wins for Novak Djokovic.

50... Years since Rod Laver won his first calendar Grand Slam, in 1962. He repeated the feat in 1969 as the only man in the Open Era to win all four major championships in one calendar year.

Bits and bobbles

Wednesday's scoreboard premonition: "KVIT ERRA." Because for a while there in the second set, errors were all Petra was hitting.

 You have to love the British press. Out of 11 questions in Djokovic's post-match press conference, seven were related to Murray.

ESPN had Laver and Roger Federer on set for an interview, and while the substance might not have been compelling, the circumstance was. It's moments like this that make me love this sport.

They said it

"I've always been a big competitor. I treat every opponent with respect. I know my opponent can play good tennis. So I try to be tough with every point that comes, no matter if it's easy or hard. I certainly fight, give it my all till the end, yeah."-- Maria Sharapova, responding to Federer's observation that the women fist-pump so much.

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