MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It was difficult to tell who was more pleased with reaching the Australian Open semifinals: No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, advancing to his 25th at a Grand Slam tournament, or 19-year-old Madison Keys, who beat Venus Williams to get into her first.
Djokovic was simply overpowering as he beat Canadian Milos Raonic 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 in exactly two hours at Rod Laver Arena in a night match on Wednesday, never facing a break point.
The four-time champion, who has dropped his serve only once through five matches, lined up defending champ Stan Wawrinka on Friday.
“I’m a self-critic, but tonight there was not much I could complain about,” Djokovic said. “From the first game until the last, I played the way I wanted. I feel very good about my game at the moment.”
Keys overcame a left thigh injury to beat Venus Williams 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, and will next play a five-time Australian champ also named Williams — top-seeded Serena — on Thursday.
Keys, who said watching the Williams sisters inspired her to take up tennis, talked about the sheer thrill of being in the final four of a major for the first time.
“It’s amazing,” said Keys, who was coached by three-time major winner Lindsay Davenport. “And I get to enjoy another moment next round.”
Serena Williams beat last year’s finalist, Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 6-2, but she was not 100 percent — she has a cold that made her voice hoarse.
“I’ve been sick the past few days, and it’s just getting worse and worse, but hopefully it will get better,” Williams said. “I heard there’s a virus going around with a lot of the players, and I caught it.”
There had been some hope that the semis might feature an all-Williams matchup at a major for the first time since the 2009 Wimbledon final.
Williams’ win didn’t bode well for the other three women left — No. 2 Maria Sharapova plays Ekaterina Makarova in the other semi — as in the five past times Williams has advanced to the semis at Melbourne Park, she’s won the tournament.
Venus’ loss ended an encouraging 10 days for the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion. She hadn’t advanced to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since the 2010 U.S. Open, and struggled to recapture her form after being diagnosed in 2011 with Sjogren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain.
“It already feels like a long season already, so many matches in a row,” said Williams, who won the WTA event in Auckland to open the year. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep this up.”
The other men’s match on Wednesday was also a three-setter, but it got interesting at the end. Wawrinka beat U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (6), letting slip a 6-1 lead in the third-set tiebreaker and eventually needing six match points to close the victory.
Nishikori made a big error at the wrong time, attempting a drop shot from the back of the court that bundled into the net. That set up another match point for Wawrinka, which he converted with an ace, his 20th of the match.
“Phew, I’m still nervous,” Wawrinka said in his post-match interview on court. “It’s never easy with his returning. You have to go for it.”
Nishikori said he had a difficult day.
“I was struggling with my serve … I couldn’t get good rhythm in the first and second set,” Nishikori said. “He was a little bit better today.”
Djokovic also looks impressive as he progresses towards a fifth Australian Open title. He won the title here in 2008, his first major, and three years in a row from 2011. With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal gone from the other side of the draw, his major opposition for another trophy could be Andy Murray, if he beats Tomas Berdych in the other semifinal on Thursday.
One match away from that opportunity, Djokovic was pleased to have added to his Grand Slam semifinal tally that started at the French Open in 2007.
“It never gets old being in the last four of a Grand Slam,” Djokovic said.
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