Djokovic, Serena on fire to make Aussie semis

Djokovic, Serena on fire to make Aussie semis

MELBOURNE - Agence France-Presse
Djokovic, Serena on fire to make Aussie semis

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after victory against Canada's Milos Raonic during their men's singles match on day ten of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne Jan 28. AFP Photo

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams lived up to their top billing yesterday with the world number ones ripping apart Milos Raonic and Dominika Cibulkova to power into the Australian Open semifinals.

Both were in outstanding touch as they hunt for more Grand Slam glory with Djokovic meeting defending champion Stan Wawrinka for a place in the final while Williams will face unseeded Madison Keys.

Big-serving Canadian eighth seed Raonic had no answer to Djokovic’s superior all-court game and was ruthlessly swept aside 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-2, surrendering meekly after just two hours.

“I’m going to be ready for a fight against Stan,” said the Serb, gunning for an eighth Grand Slam title and a fifth in Melbourne.

“But knowing that I have raised the level of performance tonight, and probably playing the best match of the tournament so far is affecting my confidence in a positive way.”

Williams was equally impressive, shooting down last year’s finalist Cibulkova to set up a revenge clash with fellow American Keys, who knocked out her sister Venus.

Unlike her earlier sluggish matches, Serena was in the zone from the off against the dangerous Slovak, a steely look in her eyes.

The powerful 33-year-old blasted 15 aces to pummel the 11th seed 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour and make her 26th Grand Slam semifinal. She has gone on to win 18 major titles.

“I feel I played well, I felt I had to,” said Serena, who has been battling a cold.

“I feel like when you’re going up against a player like that who is confident on the court ... I knew that I needed to really play well or go home.”

Arch-rival Maria Sharapova made the semis on Jan. 27 and will face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova today.

The unseeded Keys, 19, is the tournament surprise package, fighting hard to beat a resurgent Venus 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 and end any chance of the sisters meeting in a Grand Slam semi for the first time since Wimbledon 2000.

Keys did the job despite inconvenienced by a left thigh injury.

“I think just being able to come back from being down and from not being able to move as well ... just being able to kind of grind through that, still manage to win some points, is what I’m most happy about,” she said.

Wawrinka shattered the dream of Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori, but not before blowing five match points in a tiebreaker as nerves got the better of him.

The Swiss fourth seed finally won 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (8/6) to deprive the fifth seed of a crack at another final, having made the U.S. Open decider last year.

“I trust my game. I trust myself on the court even when we start to play semifinal or final in Grand Slam,” he said of meeting Djokovic.

 Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych play the other semifinal after booking their places on Jan. 27.

In an ominous sigh for Keys, Serena has made the last four in Melbourne five times before and gone on win the championship each time.

But Keys, coached by former Australian champion Lindsay Davenport, is undaunted.

“It’s just one of those things where I have to go out and I have to do my best and I have to really just stay focused on my side of the court,” she said.

“Because she’s obviously very, very good and she’s going to play very well.”

Keys is viewed as one of the new generation to take up the mantle from the Williams sisters and Venus was generous in her praise.

“I give a lot of credit to her because she really set her points up. She was swinging freely. Most of them went in for her,” said the 34-year-old, a childhood idol of Keys.

Despite the defeat, Venus is expected to move as high as 11 in the rankings following her best Grand Slam run since 2010 coupled with winning the lead-up Auckland Classic.