Melbourne: World number two Vera Zvonareva brushed off Czech Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Australian Open semis Wednesday and stay on course for her third straight Grand Slam final.
Zvonareva shrugged off the distractions of a medical drama in the stands and a thunderous 21-gun salute for Australia Day, a national public holiday, to down Kvitova in just 75 minutes.
Yesterday, defending champion Roger Federer demolished fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka to reach his eighth straight Australian Open semi-final, setting up a grandstand clash with Novak Djokovic.
Women’s top seed Caroline Wozniacki also survived a thrilling quarter-final against the tenacious Italian Francesca Schiavone and will now need to beat Li Na, who ratcheted up Chinese hopes of a first Grand Slam singles title.
Federer, who can become only the second man to win five Australian Opens after Roy Emerson (six), showed no mercy against close friend Wawrinka as he took him apart 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in just 1hr 47 min on Rod Laver Arena.
“I definitely needed a good performance and I’ve obviously played Stan many times in practice and in matches, and there were no real secrets out there for either of us,” Federer said.
Federer and Wawrinka are known for a joyous celebration after their doubles gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the pair were poles apart as the 16-time Grand Slam winner coolly dispatched his frustrated friend.
Wawrinka, who had not been beaten this year and whipped Andy Roddick in the quarters, angrily smashed his racquet when he was broken for the fifth time, in the third set, as Federer cantered to victory.
Federer, 29, can equal Andre Agassi’s record 46 hard-court titles and derail top seed Rafael Nadal’s “Rafa Slam”, a non-calendar year Grand Slam which would unite all four major trophies for the first time since 1969.
But he will have his work cut out against Djokovic, who came out on top of their last Melbourne semi-final in 2008 and went on to win his lone Grand Slam title.
The 23-year-old third seed was immense in Tuesday’s evening match as he saw off a strong second-set challenge from Czech world number six Tomas Berdych 6-1, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1, to reach his third Grand Slam semi in the past year.
“If I continue playing like this, and I think I am playing well, then I have a good chance. But I have Federer and we all know he’s the best player ever so it’s going to be very tough,” Djokovic said.
Meanwhile, Wozniacki overcame a tiring Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals, a result which also ensures she stays as number one when the new rankings are published next week.
Wozniacki clawed her way back from losing the first set against Schiavone, who had battled through a Grand Slam record 4hr 44min epic with Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday, to clinch victory on a Hawkeye challenge.
“My game is to win. If sometimes I have to run the balls down, I can do that. If sometimes I need to step it up, I try to do that,” Wozniacki said.
“I can still improve in many areas, but I’m on the right track.”
In Thursday’s semis, Wozniacki will meet Li Na, who lifted Chinese hopes to fever pitch after she weathered an early storm from Germany’s Andrea Petkovic to reach her second straight Australian Open semi-final.
A day after compatriot Peng Shuai fell by the wayside, Li weathered a blistering start by Petkovic in both sets to wrap it up 6-2, 6-4 in 80 minutes.
Li said she had no intention of repeating last year’s disappointment, when she was bundled out of the last four by eventual winner Serena Williams, who is out this year with a foot injury.
“I played really well in Sydney and I hope I can do better here this year. I don’t want to lose in the semis again,” said Li.
A maiden Grand Slam singles title would be considered a huge boost to tennis in China, where the sport has been growing exponentially after it hosted a series of top tournaments and produced its first competitive players.