Federer advances; Li reaches back-to-back semis

Posted Jan. 24, 2011, at 11:24 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 24, 2011, at 11:59 p.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Roger Federer advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over Stanislas Wawrinka on Tuesday in a mismatch that had the intensity of a practice session.

Federer, aiming to become the first man to win five Australian titles, was playing in his record-tying 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. He is into his eighth consecutive semifinal at Melbourne Park.

No. 19 Wawrinka was playing at this stage for only the second time at a major and struggled against Federer in the first all-Swiss quarterfinal at a Grand Slam. He had only beaten Federer once in their seven previous matches.

Wawrinka had only one look at a break chance against the 16-time Grand Slam winner, in the sixth game of the third set, and lost three straight points to let Federer off the hook.

Federer cashed in on five of his seven break opportunities.

Wawrinka received a code violation for smashing his racket into the ground, shattering the frame, after falling behind 2-0 in the third. His intensity picked up, but it was too late.

“I obviously played Stan many times in practice and in matches … maybe a bit of a battle for him to get used to the conditions,” Federer said. “I had to fight extremely hard and I thought Stan played an amazing tournament.”

Wawrinka was on a nine-match winning streak, including a straight-sets win over former No. 1-ranked Andy Roddick in the fourth round.

Federer next plays the winner of Tuesday’s later match between No. 3 Novak Djokovic and Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. Federer’s last two Grand Slam losses have come against them — against Berdych at Wimbledon and Djokovic at the U.S. Open. Djokovic also beat Federer in the semifinals here in 2008 before going on to win the title.

For Federer, the match will be more about making the final than seeking revenge.

“I got them back a couple of times at the end of the year,” he said. “I don’t feel like I need to get back at them necessarily, but I’m not just going to come out here and give them the match.”

Li Na beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 to reach back-to-back semifinals a the Australian Open, and set new benchmarks for tennis in China.

She is more confident of going one better this time.

Li, who lost the 2010 semifinal in two tiebreak sets to eventual champion Serena Williams, came to Melbourne after winning the title at a tuneup event in Sydney and is on a 10-match winning streak.

“I’s good for me. I mean, the second time in the Grand Slam semifinal, always in the Australia Open, and also before I played well in Sydney,” she said. “Hopefully I can do better in this year, and everyone will see me again.”

The 28-year-old Li was the only quarterfinalist from the last Australian Open to reach the last eight this year.

She already has been a trailblazer for tennis in her country — the first Chinese woman to win a WTA tour event, and the first to enter the top 10. Her run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2006 was the best for a Chinese player in a major at the time. Now her return to the semis is a first.

No Chinese woman has won a major, but Petkovic thinks that can change here.

“I think she played really well. I think she’s going to win the tournament,” Petkovic said. “She moves very well, she has a great footwork. She takes the ball very early. She plays flat and deep. She has this sneaky aggressive play, I would call it.”

Li thanked Petkovic for the vote of confidence, but said she still had two difficult steps to make. A win would certainly be career defining.

“Wow, amazing for me, amazing for my team,” she said when asked how she’d react to winning a Grand Slam title. “Maybe amazing for China tennis also.”

The first difficult stage: her next match is against the winner of the later quarterfinal between No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

On Monday night, Rafael Nadal reached the quarters with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win over Marin Cilic, extending his winning streak to 25 in Grand Slam matches.

Nadal already holds the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns and is three wins from an Australian title. Nobody has held all four men’s majors at once since Rod Laver in a calendar year in 1969.

He next plays fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who fended off big-serving 20-year-old Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

In the previous round, Nadal had complained that a virus he picked up two weeks ago in Qatar left him weak and caused him to sweat more than usual.

“The two other days I was sweating like crazy and I felt very tired when I played the match,” he said. “Today was the first day that I felt perfect physically. So that is the most important thing.”

Andy Murray, the last man to beat Nadal at a major — in their quarterfinal here last year — made only 10 unforced errors in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 11 Jurgen Melzer. In the quarterfinals, he’ll meet Alexandr Dolgopolov, who ousted French Open finalist Robin Soderling 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

On the women’s side, No. 3 Kim Clijsters beat Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (3), 6-2, and No. 2 Vera Zvonareva kept rolling toward a possible third consecutive Grand Slam final with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Iveta Benesova.

Zvonareva moved into a quarterfinal against No. 25 Petra Kvitova, who rallied past No. 22 Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska beat China’s Peng Shuai 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 and in the quarters will meet Clijsters, the growing favorite for the women’s title.

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