Tennis

Djokovic delighted with stroll to semi-finals

Novak Djokovic was delighted to get back into the semi-finals at the Australian Open after missing out for two years as Kei Nishikori retired injured yesterday.

The world No. 1 eased into a showdown with French 28th seed Lucas Pouille as Nishikori retired after just 51 minutes when trailing 6-1, 4-1 in the quarter-final.

"Feels great. This has been my most successful Grand Slam throughout my career, the first one that I won back in 2008," said Djokovic, who is chasing a record seventh Melbourne Park title.

"I have a lot of beautiful memories from Rod Laver Arena.

"Yeah, past two years have been a bit tough with the elbow injury and everything. Over the past 10 years, I've had plenty of success here.

"Australia has been really kind to me throughout my career."

Eighth seed Nishikori had endured three five-set epics during 13hr 47min on court before the quarter-final clash and suffered a thigh strain in the first set as his previous exertions took their toll.

After a medical timeout and three minutes of treatment from the physiotherapist, Nishikori emerged for the second set with his right thigh strapped and taped, and courageously attempted to carry on.

He seemed to be moving a little more freely, but the recovery did not last long.

After being broken to go 2-1 down by the Serbian 14-time Grand Slam champion, Nishikori became almost immobilised.

When Djokovic broke again to go 4-1 ahead, it proved the last straw for Nishikori's brave challenge.

"After third game or fourth game when I was serving, I felt pretty heavy to my right leg," Nishikori said.

"After that, I couldn't really bend my knees and couldn't jump up. Yeah, I decided to stop."

Djokovic's last-four opponent tomorrow, 28th seed Lucas Pouille, ousted Milos Raonic in four sets to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.

The 24-year-old credited coach Amelie Mauresmo as his remarkable run at Melbourne Park continued with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4 win over Raonic.

Second seed Rafael Nadal and Greek wunderkind Stefanos Tsitsipas will meet in the other semi-final today. - AFP

Tennis