World number one Novak Djokovic will meet defending Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in a mouth-watering clash in the semi-finals after safely advancing from the last eight at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic dispensed of eighth seed Milos Raonic in three sets, winning 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.
The victory means Djokovic and Wawrinka will renew their Australian Open rivalry on Friday night, the pair having played out epic five-set matches in the past two editions of the opening major of the season.
“It was a great performance tonight, I returned very well and tried to get as many of the balls back in play and I felt I had a good chance from the back of the court,” Djokovic said in a courtside interview.
“Some games I just had to let it go and wait for the opportunities and when they were presented try to use them.
“I served very well and overall it was a great match against one of the up and coming rising stars.”
Djokovic, a four-time Australian Open champion, withstood Raonic’s barrage of blistering serves, reaching up to 229 kilometres per hour, as he turned defence into offence with an imposing all-court display.
The Serbian’s own serve was his biggest weapon – winning a stunning 89 per cent of points on his first serve to go through the match without losing his service game.
He has not dropped a set through the tournament and only lost one service game, meaning he will hit the final four high on confidence.
Djokovic led 6-3 in the first-set tie-break, wrapping it up after Raonic fired a wild forehand.
The top seed then made an immediate statement in the second set, breaking his opponent – who was bidding to become the first Canadian man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals – in the first game.
It was effectively game over from this point, with Djokovic comfortably wrapping up the second set before breaking Raonic twice in the third without giving up a single break point on his own serve.
He closed out the two-hour match with a clinical volley and will now meet Wawrinka, who ended his title defence at Melbourne Park in last year’s quarter-finals.
Friday’s encounter will be Djokovic’s 25th appearance in the semi-finals of a major.
Wawrinka earlier recorded a straight-sets win over fifth seed Kei Nishikori on Rod Laver Arena.
Wawrinka, the fourth seed, secured passage from the quarter-finals via a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (8-6) victory.
Wawrinka’s serve was a particular strength, upping his speed from previous rounds and winning 86 per cent of first-serve points and clinching the match with his 20th ace.
The score would have been even more emphatic if Wawrinka had taken more of his opportunities to break – converting just three of 11 chances.
By contrast, Nishikori failed to earn a single break point until the final game of the second set.
The reigning champion worked Nishikori around at will with glorious stroke-making that found the corner of the court from seemingly any position.
Nishikori, who missed the chance to become the first Japanese man into the last four at the Australian Open in 83 years, was expected to be Wawrinka’s first major challenge after he had reached the quarter-finals for the loss of just one set.
The US Open runner-up did show some fighting qualities, saving three set points in the opening set and then five match points in the third-set tie-breaker.
But the usually dynamic Nishikori had simply met his match in Wawrinka, who saved his best for the biggest moments.
The win earned Wawrinka a measure of revenge for his five-set loss to Nishikori in last year’s US Open quarter-finals and preserved his 2015 unbeaten streak, after he won the Chennai lead-up event.
It is also the first time Wawrinka has made the semi-finals twice at any major.
– with AAP