Djokovic dominates after Azarenka controversy

Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:14am EST
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By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic installed himself as red-hot favorite for a third straight Australian Open title with a semi-final demolition of David Ferrer on Thursday after Victoria Azarenka had controversially set up a final against Li Na.

Serbian world number one Djokovic was brutally dominant as he pulverized the Spanish fourth seed 6-2 6-2 6-1 in 89 minutes in Rod Laver Arena to race into Sunday's final against Roger Federer or Andy Murray.

"This was definitely one of the best matches of my career," he said. "Tonight I just played incredible."

China's Li could only be less convincing despite the impressive 6-2 6-2 win over Russia's 2008 champion Maria Sharapova but it was the second women's semi-final that provided the main talking point of the day.

There was no doubt that defending champion Azarenka was a worthy 6-1 6-4 winner over American teenager Sloane Stephens but the specter of gamesmanship was raised when the Belarusian took a lengthy medical timeout after failing to convert five match points.

"I almost did the choke of the year right now," the world number one said at courtside after she had wrapped up her place in Saturday's final.

"At 5-3, having so many chances, couldn't close it out but I'm glad I could close it out. Nerves got into me for sure."

Stephens, playing in her first grand slam semi-final after upsetting Serena Williams on Wednesday, was not about to make an issue of it and Azarenka clarified her comments in the face of a barrage of questions at her post-match news conference.   Continued...

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates defeating David Ferrer of Spain in their men's singles semi-final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar