Live Blog: Novak Djokovic vs. David Ferrer

Novak Djokovic seeks his sixth straight final at a hard-court major tonight.

Follow the first men’s semifinal on a live blog tonight.  Will top seed and defending Novak Djokovic oust fourth seed David Ferrer?

Ferrer 2-1*:  Ferrer holds on a backhand error by Djokovic, a positive start for a Spaniard who often struggles on his service games.  After jolting out to a 40-0 lead, meanwhile, the defending champion encounters some trouble when Ferrer punishes a forehand for a return winner, but he finds a strong first serve to hold.  Some more sluggish returning from Djokovic keeps the fourth seed in front early in this semifinal.

Djokovic 3*-2:  A slice that finds Ferrer’s backhand corner perfectly sets up the other sideline for a signature Djokovic backhand that gives the Serb control of his service game.  Consecutive aces allow him to close it out at love.  The two men then trade backhand errors on the first two points of Ferrer’s game, a surprise considering the steadiness of both two-handers on display tonight.  Two points later, Djokovic jerks the Spaniard around mercilessly from one sideline to the other, finally coming to the net to deliver the decisive blow with a drive volley-conventional volley combination.  That exchange sets up two break points, the first of which Ferrer yields by spraying a ball over the baseline.

Djokovic 5*-2:  Using his wide serve to open up the court for down-the-line groundstrokes, Djokovic continues to cruise on serve with a series of short exchanges.  Forcing the action on Ferrer’s service game as well, he cannot break through the Spaniard’s defense and gets surprised by one audaciously angled forehand.  From 40-15, though, Djokovic takes him to deuce by capitalizing on some meek second serves.  At the second deuce, he dazzles with a backhand pass on the full run over the high part of the net to earn a break point.  A deflated Ferrer floats another groundstroke long to surrender the insurance break.

Djokovic 6-2:  Coasting to triple set point, Djokovic wraps up the set with an ace that concludes his third straight love hold.  The top seed lost just two service points in that set, while breaking Ferrer twice, so the underdog faces a steep climb from here.

Djokovic 6-2 2*-1:  Under duress again at 30-30 on his serve, Ferrer wins the next two points with more convincing groundstrokes.  He must keep this higher level of aggression to stand a chance against Djokovic, more than happy to rally with him in neutral mode.  After another routine hold by the Serb, he drags his opponent through another long game, which Ferrer would have lost quickly if not for some timely first serves.  The Spaniard continues to miss too many routine balls for his consistency-based style of play to shine, and an egregious netted backhand with the court open positions Djokovic at break point again.  A forehand error early in the next rally hands him an early lead in this set as well.

Djokovic 6-2 4*-1:  Another love hold for the Serb consolidates the break with the assistance of unforced errors flowing ever more freely from Ferrer’s racket.  Missing balls left, right, and center now, the Spaniard puts up virtually no resistance as he surrenders his serve at love.  Djokovic does strike a clean inside-out backhand winner on the third point of the next game, but he does not need to find his best form at the moment.

Djokovic 6-2, 5*-2:  For the first time in the match, Ferrer finally earns an opening on his opponent’s serve, closing to 15-30 behind a penetrating second-serve return.  At first, a stirring return two points later looks as though it may bring him to break point, but Djokovic lunges for an impressive defensive retrieval that keeps him in the point long enough to benefit from another error.  An indifferent game from both men allows Ferrer to stay in the set after he trailed 15-30, Djokovic declining to close the door as he misses several makeable shots.

Djokovic 6-2 6-2:  As Rod Laver watches, the man seeking an Australian Open three-peat cruises to a two-set lead.  Despite an unwise drop shot, Djokovic impresses from the baseline by unleashing every variety of angle from his forehand.  He converts his first set point to establish a stranglehold on this semifinal.

Djokovic 6-2 6-2 3*-0:  In no mood to let the Spaniard detain him for long, Djokovic quickly moves to 15-30 in the first game of the third set.  A commanding position on the next point reaps no rewards, however, when he shanks a forehand in a rare donation.  Not that he need worry, for Ferrer misses a forehand after another long, grinding rally of the sort that he normally wins and then concedes another error to surrender the opening break of serve.  A quick hold behind him, Djokovic breaks the deflated Spaniard at love one more time to essentially put away the match.  Slamming a SportsCenter-worthy forehand winner from outside the doubles alley over the high part of the net onto the sideline, he follows that spectacle with two crushing backhands down the line.  The Serb can do no wrong at the moment.

Djokovic 6-2 6-2 4*-1:  A comfortable hold for Djokovic, punctuated by a favorable Hawkeye challenge, precedes an easy service game for Ferrer as the Serb appears to have settled into cruise control.

FINAL:  Djokovic wins 6-2 6-2 6-1:  Still refusing to surrender despite the obvious futility of the situation, Ferrer tracks down a Djokovic drop shot only to experience the indignity of seeing a lob sail over his outstretched racket as he leaps for it.  Ever a showman, the top seed tries out a series of elaborate drop shots that work by a matter of millimeters.  An errant forehand and a double fault set up Djokovic’s first match point, which Ferrer surrenders easily on his last unforced error of the 89-minute evening, a brutal display of superiority by the defending champion and world #1.