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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Djokovic's energy level just fine

By Bonnie D. Ford
ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Novak Djokovic needed a short night at the office. He wound up working a regular shift.

Following one of the most intense five-setters of his career a couple of nights ago, Djokovic needed four sets and four match points on his own serve Tuesday to dispatch Tomas Berdych, a player he has dominated for the past two years, in the Australian Open quarterfinals. Djokovic's 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win booked his 11th consecutive trip to a Grand Slam semifinal.

The other semifinalist on that side of the draw, Spain's fourth-seeded David Ferrer, survived a distance event of his own Tuesday, rallying from two sets down against countryman Nicolas Almagro.

Djokovic
Immediately after winning the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic headed to Belgium for a Davis Cup tie.

Djokovic said he'll need to be aggressive to keep the Thursday encounter with Ferrer from becoming another draining affair.

"I need to step in and try to be in control of the match, otherwise he makes his own rhythm, he makes his own pace on the court,'' said Djokovic, who has now won 57 straight matches at majors against players ranked outside the top four. "That's where he's very dangerous. He's a great competitor.''

Inspired play by Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka painted Djokovic into a corner and kept him on the court for five hours Sunday night into Monday morning. He went to bed at 5 a.m., slept well into Monday afternoon and opted out of practice, stretching and soaking in "more than one" ice bath during his 36-hour hiatus instead.

Djokovic was quizzed extensively in his news conference about how he recovered from efforts like the Wawrinka match but wouldn't go into details other than to say that his much-discussed gluten-free diet was only part of the puzzle.

"I'm doing everything that is legal, that is correct, that is natural that I can, possibly can in my power, and it's working well,'' said Djokovic, who said he felt perfectly capable of going another five hours Tuesday night but was only on the court half that long.

Berdych was the one who looked listless in the 28-minute first set, unable to hold serve after the opening game, encroach on Djokovic's serve or test the top seed's energy level by moving him around.

The 27-year-old Czech struck back quickly, breaking Djokovic in the opening game of the second set and coming to the net repeatedly and successfully. Djokovic couldn't convert any of the four chances he earned to break Berdych at 4-5 -- thwarted most notably by a huge Berdych backhand winner down the line -- leading to some vintage self-castigation and gesticulating to his camp in the stands.

But that turned out to be a tease. Djokovic rectified the situation quickly on Berdych's first service game of the third, lofting a lob over the 6-foot-5 Berdych to set up double-break point and lashing a crosscourt forehand to seal the second. The match reverted to form after that as Djokovic scampered and slid-split his way around the court with more of his usual panache and did a better job of reading Berdych's big but somewhat predictably placed serves.

Djokovic's drop shot attempt on his first match point fell a little short, and Berdych fended off two more before Djokovic slammed the door with an ace.

"We don't play for one set,'' said a disappointed Berdych, who has been entrenched in the ATP's top 10 since mid-2010 and led the Czech Republic to its first Davis Cup title since 1980 last year. "One set was not enough.''

"If you bring something extra, then you have a chance to beat him.''

Djokovic ran his throttle-hold career record with Berdych to 12-1 and has beaten him 10 straight times since the Czech humbled him in a straight sets defeat in the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals.

"The fact of the matter is that I didn't deserve to win today, you know,'' Djokovic said back then. "It's just as simple as that. I congratulate my opponent because he was a better player. You know, I have to move on. I hope next time, if I have this opportunity, I'll play better.''

And so he has.