Breathless Djokovic sets Murray battle
Originally published on: 25/01/12 13:28
Novak Djokovic overcame David Ferrer in straight sets but the world No.1 might have given Andy Murray reason to be confident going into their semi-final clash on Friday morning after appearing to struggle with his hamstring.
The Serb trailed 4-2 in the second set tiebreak after clutching at his leg but found the mental and physical resolve to overturn the mini-deficit before stepping up his game to see off the battling Spaniard 6-4 7-6 6-1.
Despite the scare, Djokovic dismissed suggestions that the hamstring will be a concern against Murray. “Luckily for me it wasn’t something that stayed there for a long time,” he said. “It was just a sudden pain.”
It also appeared that Djokovic had found his breathing a problem and looked particularly out of breath early on, but the four-time Grand Slam champion was quick to stamp out suggestions that it might afflict him in the last four.
“I don’t have any physical issues,” he insisted. “I feel very fit and I feel mentally, as well, very fresh. It’s just today I found it very difficult after a long time to breathe because I felt the whole day my nose was closed a little bit. I just wasn’t able to get enough oxygen.
“I’m not concerned about that at all,” he continued. “I’m really fit and I have no concerns of recovering for the next match. It’s just a matter of breathing better through the nose.”
After pushing Djokovic hard in the opening two sets Ferrer wilted in the third, but last year’s semi-finalist was content with his effort despite seeing an end to his eight-match winning streak.
“I feel good,” said the Valencian. “I did [two] good tournaments, last week in Auckland and here in Australia. I had my chances in the second set, but when I lost the second set, in the third he played better than me. I was a little bit tired. But I am happy with my game.”
Djokovic, meanwhile, heads into an 11th career clash with Murray, aiming for a repeat of his fine 6-4 6-2 6-3 victory in last year’s final, albeit in different circumstances this time out.
“He’s got Ivan Lendl on his side and he’s made some changes,” acknowledged the Serb. “But you know, he looks fit. He’s been playing well. He’s definitely very motivated to win his first Grand Slam. He’s been proving to himself and to the rest of the people that the Australian Open is probably his best Grand Slam.
“On the other hand, I have been playing quite well here in the last couple of years [too]. We have to expect a great match,” he said, adding: “I hope I can step out on the court and repeat the same thing I did last year.”