Safina ends Dokic’s fairytale run; Zvonareva trounces Bartoli
MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic’s hopes for a second straight Australian Open title ended under a broiling sun on Tuesday. With ice packs and massages failing to provide relief, third-ranked Djokovic looked increasingly woozy and had to give up while trailing 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2, 2-1, allowing No. 7 Andy Roddick to claim a spot in the semifinals.
Roddick will face second-ranked Roger Federer, who moved within two victories of his record-tying 14th Grand Slam by routing No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-3, 6-0, 6-0. Federer, who owns a 15-2 advantage in previous matches with Roddick, ran off the last 13 games.
After losing seven kilos with a tough offseason workout regimen under new coach Larry Stefanki, Roddick looked quicker and his backhand stronger. The match left little doubt about the American’s stamina on a day when temperatures hit 35 Celsius with not a cloud in the sky.
“It’s rewarding to come out on a day like today, when it’s pretty hot, and feel pretty good. That’s what you do the work for,” Roddick said.
While the crowd in the night match was definitely pro-Federer, with Swiss flags abounding, it began backing the increasingly dispirited del Potro. But nothing could stop Federer, who won 51 of the last 65 points and finished with 38 winners to a mere nine unforced errors.
The heat was slowly rising but wasn’t a major issue in the opening match, when Vera Zvonareva ran off 11 straight games in a 6-3, 6-0 win over 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli of France to reach the semifinals for the first time in 25 majors.
Seventh-ranked Zvonareva will meet fellow Russian Dinara Safina, who survived 11 double-faults and 36 unforced errors to beat Australia’s Jelena Dokic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in a back-and-forth match with 11 service breaks.
Dokic’s loss ended one of the tournament’s most compelling stories: The former Wimbledon semifinalist was making her return to a Grand Slam after a three-year absence due to personal problems.
Dokic was happy with her performance.
“There’s nothing to be disappointed about,” Dokic said. “It’s been a great start to 2009. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
The Australian Open has turned into a struggle for survival: Djokovic was the fourth player to quit in mid-match in two days.
The 21-year-old Serb lamented his previous match against Marcos Baghdatis ended at 2:26 a.m. on Monday, so he didn’t get to sleep until 6 and was unable to practice as a result. He said he had requested another night match.
“Didn’t really have time to recover,” Djokovic said. “Conditions were extreme today. It did affect me more than him. But, you know, that was the situation. I just have to cope with it. Really tried my best, but sometimes you can’t fight against your own body.”
Djokovic also retired in his quarterfinal against Rafael Nadal with a back problem at Roland Garros in 2006 and his semifinal against the Spaniard at Wimbledon in 2007.
Djokovic was wilting in the heat, draping towels packed with ice around his neck during changeovers.
He lost his serve in the first game of the third set, double-faulting twice, and was clearly laboring — trying to end points fast and lingering in the shade behind the baseline. Djokovic looked increasingly weary and shrugged toward his coach.
“I feel bad for Novak right now. He worked so hard for this last year. To not get a fair chance to defend his title, that’s too bad,” said Roddick. — AP