Djokovic dominates after Azarenka controversy

Updated 25 January 2013
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Djokovic dominates after Azarenka controversy

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic installed himself as red-hot favorite for a third straight Australian Open title with a semifinal demolition of David Ferrer yesterday after Victoria Azarenka had controversially set up a final against Li Na.
Serbian world No. 1 Djokovic was brutally dominant as he pulverized the Spanish fourth seed 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 89 minutes at Rod Laver Arena to race into Sunday's final against Roger Federer or Andy Murray.
"This was definitely one of the best matches of my career," he said. "Tonight I just played incredible."
China's Li could only be less convincing despite the impressive 6-2, 6-2 win over Russia's 2008 champion Maria Sharapova but it was the second women's semifinal that provided the main talking point of the day.
There was no doubt that defending champion Azarenka was a worthy 6-1, 6-4 winner over American teenager Sloane Stephens but the spectre of gamesmanship was raised when the Belarussian took a lengthy medical timeout after failing to convert five match points.
"I almost did the choke of the year right now," the world number one said at courtside after she had wrapped up her place in Saturday's final.
"At 5-3, having so many chances, couldn't close it out but I'm glad I could close it out. Nerves got into me for sure."
Stephens, playing in her first grand slam semi-final after upsetting Serena Williams on Wednesday, was not about to make an issue of it and Azarenka clarified her comments in the face of a barrage of questions at her post-match news conference.
"I'm telling you what happened right now honestly, that my back was bothering me," Azarenka said, blaming a rib injury for the problem. "It took me too long of a time to call the trainer, which was my mistake.
"I took it to the point where I couldn't breathe, which was (caused by) my back problem, and I couldn't really figure out what was going on on the court.
"I was really panicking, not because I couldn't convert my match point. That's not the case," she added.
Former men's number four Jonas Bjorkman was among many who took to social media to call for a change to the rules over medical timeouts.
"Azarenka took a medical timeout after all her missing matchpoints or because of an injury? Time to change that rule! No sportsmanship there!," he tweeted.
Djokovic looked like he barely wanted to take a break even at changeovers as he delivered a one-sided masterpiece of a performance against the fifth best player in men's tennis.
The 25-year-old Serbian won 91 percent of his first serve points, converted all seven of his break points and hit 30 winners as he thrashed Ferrer, who will rise to No. 4 in the world on Monday in the absence of his injured compatriot Rafa Nadal.
"I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment," Djokovic said. "Now I have two days off before the finals which gives me enough time to get ready and recover for the finals."

Perhaps deciding that he had not spent enough time on the main showcourt, Djokovic later reappeared during a seniors doubles match dressed as a doctor to give Henri Leconte mock medical treatment.
While Djokovic's performance had the tennis purists purring, Li's victory would have had the tournament's marketing department grinning from ear to ear.
The self-titled "Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific" has never had an Asian singles champion and Li, whose first trip to the Melbourne Park final ended in defeat to Kim Clijsters in 2011, has a second chance to put that right.
"At the beginning of the match I was nervous," said the 30-year-old Chinese. "I was happy to be back in the semis again.
"I'm really hungry for the title," the former French Open champion added. "I think this time should be maybe a different story."
Second seed Sharapova had carved her way ruthlessly through the draw at Melbourne Park, conceding only nine games on her way to the semifinals.
Li, reinvigorated by Justine Henin's former coach Carlos Rodriguez, has also been in impressive form this year and will be quietly confident that she has the measure of Azarenka.
Certainly, on Thursday, the Chinese showed none of the mental frailties that have dogged her in the past as she broke the Russian in her first service game and never looked back.
"When your opponent is always up and ahead, it's always a little bit mentally easier for them to keep that going," said Sharapova.
"If I would have taken those chances and clawed my way back and made it a bit tougher for her, I'm sure she would have thought a little bit more. But I certainly didn't make her think about anything."


Sublime Mohamed Salah leads Liverpool to stunning 5-2 win over Roma

Updated 1 min 48 sec ago
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Sublime Mohamed Salah leads Liverpool to stunning 5-2 win over Roma

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah put his former side Roma to the sword on Tuesday night with a scintillating performance as the Reds ran riot at Anfield, taking a commading 5-2 lead into next week’s second leg in Rome.
The Italian side had no answer to the Egyptian superstar’s sublime skill as he scored two world-class goals and set up another two for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Firmino added the fifth as the Merseyside club romped into a 5-0 lead to put the English side within touching distance of the Champions League final.
Salah’s display was as exquisite as Roma’s defending was naive, with Liverpool scoring all of its goals in a breathtaking 33-minute spell either side of halftime amid a cauldron of noise at Anfield.
But two consolation goals in the final nine minutes from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti has given Roma hope of recreating their heroics from the previous leg against Barcelona.
In the latest virtuoso performance of his stunning first season at Liverpool, Salah curled a shot into the top corner in the 36th minute and doubled the lead in the 45th with a dinked finish that is fast becoming his trademark. He is now on 43 goals for the season in all competitions with potentially five games left.
The Egypt forward wasn’t finished there, taking advantage of Roma’s high defensive line to provide crosses for Mane and Firmino to score almost identical goals in the 56th and 61st minutes, respectively.
Firmino glanced home a header from James Millner’s corner in the 69th to leave Roma’s players on the floor — literally in the case of its distressed goalkeeper, Alisson.
Liverpool moved onto 38 goals for this season’s competition — 11 more than any other team — but cannot begin preparing for the final in Kiev on May 26 quite yet.
Dzeko chested down a long pass to make it 5-1 in the 81st and when Milner handled a shot from Radja Nainggolan, Perotti converted the penalty in the 89th.
Bayern Munich plays Real Madrid in the other semifinal, with the first leg in Germany on Wednesday.
Roma knows all about Salah, who scored 15 goals and set up 11 more in the second of his two seasons at the Italian club before joining Liverpool for 42 million euros (then $47 million) in June.
He’s obliterating those figures at Anfield this season. His double saw him surge past Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42 goals for Manchester United in the 2007-08 season, for example.
Salah won English soccer’s Player of the Year award on Sunday. At this rate, the Ballon D’Or could be his next year.