After Novak Djokovic’s five-set marathon with Stanislas Wawrinka, it looked like he might have a rough road ahead. He dispatched Tomas Berdych in four sets in the quarterfinals, though, and there’s nothing stopping him from steamrolling into the finals for a matchup with either Andy Murray or Roger Federer.
Djokovic has to get through David Ferrer in the semifinals, but after Ferrer’s grueling five-set victory over No. 10 Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals, he stands virtually no chance of rebounding on two days rest against the No. 1 player in the world.
With Rafael Nadal sitting out of the Australian Open with a stomach virus, many expected Djokovic to waltz into the finals. Murray and Federer are in the lower-half of the bracket, potentially leaving Berdych and Ferrer as Djokovic’s two toughest opponents.
As Djokovic labored through his pairing with Wawrinka, though, questions began to arise. Would Djokovic cruise to the finals, or would he make a misstep and an early exit?
He has answered those questions, and many of the same are now posed on Ferrer’s behalf. He made a valiant comeback to defeat Almagro, but it took him five arduous sets to do so, and now he has to play Djokovic—the No. 1 player in the world with his sight focused squarely on another Australian Open title.
It isn’t that Ferrer isn’t a worthy opponent. He is ranked No. 5 in the world and has had his share of success against Djokovic. However, Djokovic has bested him in nine of their last 14 meetings, and he has all the momentum right now.
Both Djokovic and Ferrer are in great shape, and they're known for their focus and intensity, even in the toughest of conditions. It’s a trait that all of the sport’s greatest athletes exhibit, but that alone does not foot the two on even ground.
Ferrer fell to Djokovic at the Australian Open in both 2008 and 2012, and it will likely happen again this year as Djokovic pursues his third straight title in Melbourne. It always seems to end at Djokovic, just short of the prize and the glory.
Anything can happen on Thursday, but the odds are slim for Ferrer. His history facing the Big Four of tennis is not in his favor, and he didn’t help himself out by laboring through five sets on Day 9. Had he dispatched Almagro in straight sets, the conversation may be a little different, but the outcome in his semifinals matchups would likely still be the same.
Djokovic is focused on another title, and as long as he remains focused on the task at hand, Ferrer will be sent home empty-handed with Djokovic advancing to the finals yet again.