Melbourne: Defending champion Novak Djokovic produced one of the best performances of his career on Thursday as he destroyed fourth seed David Ferrer to reach the Australian Open final.
The Serbian world number one was simply on a different level to the Spaniard, reeling off a staggering 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory in just 1 hour 29 minutes in front of a stunned Rod Laver Arena crowd.
Djokovic will now be considered the raging favourite to win his fourth Australian title in Sunday’s decider against either Roger Federer or Andy Murray, who play their semi-final on Friday.
Djokovic was in irresistible form, breaking the hapless Ferrer’s serve seven times and hitting 30 winners with just 16 unforced errors in an awesome display.
The sizzling Serb won 91 per cent of his first serve points, did not face a break point and won 85 of the match points to Ferrer’s 41.
“I played incredible tennis and I felt very comfortable and very confident from the start,” Djokovic said. “I wanted to be aggressive on the court but this is definitely one of the best performances I’ve ever had in my career.”
The manner of Djokovic’s mauling of Ferrer, set to become the new world number four after Rafael Nadal’s injury absence, underlined the gulf between the ‘Big Four’ — Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal — and the rest.
“David is experiencing the best time in his career in the last few years, he won 11 titles last year, but tonight I just played incredible,” Djokovic said.
“I don’t expect myself to play always this well, but I was free in my mind tonight and hopefully I can maintain that to the final.”
It is Djokovic’s fourth Australian Open final in six years and he is looking to become the first man in the Open era to win the title three times in a row.
“It can only do positive things for my confidence. Definitely at this stage of the tournament, playing semi-finals against the world number four, somebody that I have respect for, great competitor, and being able to perform as well as I did, it’s incredible,” he said.
“I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment. Now I have two days off before the final which gives me enough time to get ready and recover.”
By reaching the semi-finals Djokovic is already guaranteed to hold on to the number one ranking when the new listing is released on Monday.
It was 30-year-old Ferrer’s fifth loss in a Grand Slam semi-final and his defeat by Djokovic was only his second in 14 matches this year.
Djokovic was brutal against Ferrer, breaking his serve twice in the opening set and twice more in the next set to storm to a two sets to love lead after only 63 minutes.
Ferrer was powerless to stem the onslaught even though he tried to chase down everything across the back of the court. The imperious top seed broke Ferrer three times more in the final set to wrap it up in double-quick time.
“He played very, very good. I didn’t have any chance to win. All I can say is Novak was better in every moment than me,” Ferrer said.
“I’ve never lost like this. Anyway, I made the semi-finals. It was a good three weeks and I’m very happy for that. Of course, I am not happy with my game tonight, but this is tennis, no?”
Li Na (CHN x6) bt Maria Sharapova (RUS x2) 6-2, 6-2
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x1) bt Sloane Stephens (USA x29) 6-1, 6-4
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt David Ferrer (ESP x4) 6-2, 6-2, 6-1
Bob Bryan (USA)/Mike Bryan (USA x1) bt Simone Bolelli (ITA)/Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
Robin Haase (NED)/Igor Sijsling (NED) bt Marcel Granollers (ESP)/Marc Lopez (ESP x3) 7-5, 4-6
Lucie Hradecka (CZE)/Frantisek Cermak (CZE) bt Sania Mirza (IND)/Bob Bryan (USA x3) 7-5, 6-4
Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)/Matthew Ebden (AUS) bt Nadia Petrova (RUS)/Mahesh Bhupathi (IND x5) 6-3, 3-6, (13/11)