Tomáš Berdych and Roger Federer were the first to play in today’s Australian Open Quarter-Finals.
Prior to the match, Federer had played a routine and efficient four matches in the tournament, only dropping one set (against Grigor Dimitrov).
In contrast, Berdych had battled his way through to the quarters.
In the last round, he scraped past Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6 6-4 6-3 1-6 6-3.
However, the 6″8′ Czech is historically a tricky prospect for the Swiss.
The last time they played at a Grand Slam, Berdych won 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the quarters of the 2012 US Open.
Federer’s serve and volley tactic worked well in his quarter final against big-hitter Thomas Berdych. Image embedded from Getty Images.
The first set certainly seemed to align with previous encounters.
It was tight, tense and dominated by powerful hitting from the back of the court.
Berdych was going for baseline winners wherever possible and looking menacing, while the Swiss contained him well.
It wasn’t just the big hitting that was eye-watering. A bizarre moment in the first set involved an umpire receiving a serve in a rather delicate area.
Video Credit: Australian Open TV
A tie-break was the inevitable conclusion to the set and Federer stepped up a gear, looking in control as he began coming into the net and stretching play.
And this was a tactic he found success with throughout the match, as Berdych looked unable to shake-up his game play.
Federer took the tie-break 7-4.
From then on, it all felt rather routine. Federer eased his way through the following two sets 6-2, 6-4.
Listen to the moment he booked his place in the Semi-Final.
Audio credit: Australian Open’s AudioBoom Channel.
Roger Federer has now reached his 39th Grand Slam Semi-Final as he chases his fifth Australian Open title, at the age of 34.
In a post match interview Federer siad:
I’m very happy. Thomas has caused me many problems over the years… he’s one of those players that makes you a better player.
I think I played a good match. I was aggressive and had some variety in there.
Next up on the court at Melbourne Park, world number one and first seed Novak Djokovic playing the seventh seed Kei Nishikori.
This match was fascinatingly poised.
Djokovic had scraped past France’s Giles Simon in the previous round, showing rare signs of vulnerability.
The powerful Serb made over 100 unforced errors and looked out of sorts, compared to his usually measured on-court demeanor.
Djokovic fought hard to beat No. 14 seed Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 at the Rod Laver Arena.
That was the hardest he had been pushed in a match since Stan Wawrinka emerged victorious in the French Open final last year.
Djokovic had to stretch for every ball in order to beat France’s Gilles Simon. Image embedded from Getty Images.
In contrast, Nishikori was in fine form.
He looked imperious in his straight sets dismissal of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the previous round, winning 6-4 6-2 6-4.
However, Nishikori failed to live up to his pre-match billing.
He gifted the Serb the first two sets with a multitude of unforced errors and his serve was largely ineffective throughout.
It was a straightforward first two sets for Djokovic, which he took 6-3 6-2.
The third set started badly for the Japanese, who called for a medical time-out.
However, there was a glimmer of an unlikely comeback when Nishikori eventually took one of his break point chances.
He led 2-0 in the third set but failed to back-up his break with a strong service game.
Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2016
Djokovic broke back immediately.
The rest of the match looked like simply delaying the inevitable, especially when Nishikori emerged from another medical time out with heavy strapping on his thigh.
Djokovic took the third set 6-4, to win outright 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2016
Video credit: Australian Open TV.
Despite the win, the Serb hadn’t looked at his best throughout this match. More unforced errors and a rare timidity in hitting winners may give others in the Australian Open draw some hope.
However, Kai Nishikori did most of his work for him with a disappointing display.
Djokovic will now play Roger Federer in the Semi-Final.
LMMN reporter Al Riddell looks ahead to what is sure to be an exhilarating fixture.
Speaking about the upcoming fixture in a post match interview, Djokovic said:
“I’ve played Roger 44 times and Rafa 45, so it feels like half of my career matches are against these two guys. It’s always a great challenge.
Roger, you don’t need to spend words on what he’s achieved. It’s going to be a great match.”
Elsewhere on quarter final day, Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova for the 18th time in a row to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.
The defending champion, seeded number one and chasing a 22nd Grand Slam title, saw off fifth seed Sharapova 6-4 6-1 at Melbourne Park.
Williams and Sharapova shake hands after yet another victory for the American.
The American has not lost to Sharapova in 12 years.
Williams now faces fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
The remaining quarter final fixtures take place this Thursday, January 27th.
Remaining Quarter-Final Singles Fixtures
Andy Murray (2) v David Ferrer (8) – Jan 27th 3.30AM
Milos Raonic (13) v Gael Monfils (23) – Jan 27th 8.30AM
Johanna Konta (unseeded) v Zhang Shuai (unseeded) – Jan 27th 1.30AM
Angelique Kerber (7) v Victoria Azarenka (14) – Jan 27th 12.00AM