Novak Djokovic's quest for a third consecutive Australian Open title continues with a semifinal encounter with David Ferrer. They faced off in the quarterfinals of the year's first major last season and Djokovic advanced in straight sets.
The biggest question heading into the match is how much energy does Ferrer have left in the tank after a five-set marathon against countryman Nicolas Almagro? That type of match takes a lot out of a player, both physically and mentally, and Ferrer needs to be at his best against Djokovic.
If the Spaniard can recover as well as his semifinal opponent did after needing five sets and more than five hours to eliminate Stanislas Wawrinka, tennis fans will be in for a terrific match. Djokovic cruised past Tomas Berdych two days after that Wawrinka epic.
Djokovic has won nine of the previous 14 meetings between the top contenders, including the last three. At the same time, all of those matches have shown the Serbian sensation exactly how dangerous Ferrer is every time out.
It's something Almagro found out the hard way in the quarters. He took the first two sets and had opportunities to close it out in each of the next two sets, but couldn't capitalize. Ferrer went on to grind out another victory—his 13th straight in the friendly rivalry.
Ferrer isn't a flashy player, but he's consistent. He's going to get a lot of balls back and force his opponent to do most of the heavy lifting. He understands that if they aren't in top form, he's going to expose a weakness eventually.
Which player will advance?
That's also why he hasn't had much success against Djokovic—the sport's most complete player—lately. Like Ferrer, the three-time Australian Open champion is steady and reliable. His days of beating himself with poor decisions are a thing of the past.
If there's any good news for Ferrer, it's that Djokovic hasn't looked invincible over the last two rounds. Wawrinka and Berdych were both able to make inroads against him, which should at least give the No. 4 seed a plan of attack.
It sets up as a very competitive semifinal. Even though Djokovic is the rightful favorite, it's hard to imagine a scenario where he romps over Ferrer unless the Spanish star is completely gassed. Otherwise, it will be a grind.
Ultimately, Ferrer should be able to grab a set, but Djokovic will make another trip to the finals.
Prediction: Djokovic in four sets