John Pye, AP
ROGER FEDERER ADVANCED to the Australian Open semi-finals for the ninth consecutive year with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Juan Martin del Potro, one of only two men who’ve beaten him in a Grand Slam final.
After celebrating his 1,000th tour-level match with an emphatic win over the 2009 US Open champion, Federer might have to beat the other one — number two-ranked Rafael Nadal — to win his fifth Australian title.
The win, sealed with a trademark backhand winner, sets up the prospect of a semi-final against 10-time major winner Rafael Nadal, who plays Tomas Berdych in a night quarter-final.
Federer and Nadal are on the same half of the draw at a major for the first time since 2005, and top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic is on the other side.
The women’s semi-final on the top half of the draw was decided when defending champion Kim Clijsters beat number one-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) after third-seeded Victoria Azarenka fended off Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets.
Clijsters has needed continual treatment since Sunday, when she injured her left ankle and had to save four match points in her fourth-round win over Li Na, a rematch of the 2011 final.
The 28-year-old Belgian’s win means Wozniacki will lose the top ranking, with Azarenka one of three women who could finish at number one in Melbourne.
“Yeah, instead of really focusing on the match you’re focusing on trying to get the ankle as good as possible,” Clijsters said of her interrupted preparation. “Laying on the couch, every 20 minutes ice, 20 minutes off, 20 minutes ice, 20 minutes off. Leg elevated. Lymphatic drainage, all that stuff.”
Federer had no such worries, using his time to work out how to defuse the big forehand of del Potro, who had beaten him two of their previous three matches. He did a stunning job of shutting down the Argentine’s big weapons, relying on his exceptional speed to the ball and full range of shots to ensure 11th-seeded Del Potro never had a chance to get settled.
“I’m very happy. It was a great match,” said Federer, who has won four of his 16 majors on Rod Laver Arena. “It was a high quality match and Juan Martin is a wonderful player and I know how hard he can hit the ball.”
He planned to watch the Nadal-Berdych match on TV, “even though I know both players very well.”
“There’s no secrets out there, but I’ll still enjoy it. I love good tennis.”
Tuesday opened with Azarenka beating Radwanska 6-7 (7-0), 6-0, 6-2 to move into the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the second time and maintain a chance of surpassing the Dane at number one.
Wozniacki needed to reach the semifinals to retain the top ranking she has held at the end of the last two seasons. Her place in the rankings has attracted some criticism because she’s never won a major.
But even after another major setback, Wozniacki remained confident she’ll not only reclaim the top ranking but will get her Grand Slam breakthrough.
“You know, I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said.
[Critics] talk to me like I’m finishing my career and I only have one year left and time is running out. The fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.
Five-time champion Serena Williams is already out of the tournament. Her 17-match winning streak at the Australian Open ended in a 6-2, 6-3 loss to number 56-ranked Ekaterina Makarova yesterday.
Makarova will face three-time major winner Maria Sharapova, who beat Sabine Lisicki 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova had a 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) win over former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic and will next play Sara Errani of Italy.
Novak Djokovic fended off a resurgent Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal against number five David Ferrer.
Two-time finalist Andy Murray advanced when Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan retired with a left hip injury while trailing 6-1, 6-1, 1-0. He next plays Kei Nishikori, who beat sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to become the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since the Open era began in 1968.