MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):
Maria Sharapova has lost only nine games in five matches on the way to the semi-finals at the Australian Open. Always the perfectionist, she sees room for improvement.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic made some improvements of his own later yesterday, beating Tomas Berdych 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to a semi-final against David Ferrer.
After needing five hours, two minutes to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round on Sunday, Djokovic never appeared threatened in his pursuit of a third consecutive Australian Open title. He completed his win over Berdych in exactly half the time of his previous victory.
Sharapova beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2 yesterday and was asked afterward if she'd lost focus in only a few games this tournament.
"No, I'd probably say more," she said, "but that's probably because I'm critical."
If that's the case, she's a pretty tough taskmaster.
After opening with a pair of 6-0, 6-0 wins, Sharapova beat seven-time major winner Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the third round and Belgian Kristen Flipkens 6-0, 6-1 in the fourth.
no warm-up tournaments
Nobody has conceded fewer games on the way to the semi-finals at the Australian Open, and her impressive streak comes after having played in no warm-up tournaments because of a right collarbone injury.
But after losing to Victoria Azarenka in a lopsided final last year, Sharapova is taking nothing for granted.
"To be honest, those are not the stats you want to be known for," Sharapova said, adding that she was more concerned about adding a fifth Grand Slam title and had spent plenty of time on the practice court.
Sharapova's semi-final opponent will be Li Na, who beat Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3 in the first of yesterday's quarter-finals, breaking the Polish player's 13-match winning streak to start the season.
Djokovic has now won 19th consecutive matches at Melbourne Park.
"It was a great performance," Djokovic said. "I was hoping to have a shorter match."
He later credited his coaches and physiotherapists who helped him overcome the short turnaround.
The No. 4-seeded Ferrer survived once in the third set and twice in the fourth when No. 10 Nicolas Almagro was serving for the match, holding firm to finally advance to his fourth semi-final in six Grand Slam events with a 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win.
The 30-year-old Li advanced to her third semi-final in four years at Melbourne Park.
"She's a tough player. I was feeling today against a wall," said Li, who lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters only months before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open.