Djokovic downplays injury scare ahead of Murray rematch

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic won three out of four grand slam titles in 2011, including the Australian Open.

Story highlights

  • World No. 1 Novak Djokovic survives injury scare at the Australian Open
  • Djokovic beats David Ferrer in quarterfinals despite feeling a pain in his hamstring
  • The Serb will next face Andy Murray in a rematch of the 2011 final
  • Fourth seed Murray ended the campaign of Japanese 24th seed Kei Nishikori

Defending champion Novak Djokovic shrugged off an injury scare to beat fifth seed David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarterfinals on Wednesday, setting up a last-four rematch with 2011 runner-up Andy Murray.

The world No. 1 pulled up and clutched his leg while leading 2-1 in the second set, but recovered to secure a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 win over the Spaniard despite moving uncomfortably between points.

"Luckily for me it wasn't something that stayed there for long time," the four-time grand slam winner told reporters after reaching his seventh straight grand slam semifinal.

"It was just a sudden pain ... David makes you run, makes you play an extra shot, makes you earn your points."

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However, the Serbian revealed that he has been struggling with his breathing in the Melbourne heat.

"I found it very difficult after a long time to breathe because I felt the whole day my nose was closed a little bit. I just wasn't able to get enough oxygen," he said.

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"At this stage of the tournament, when you're playing somebody like David who has great shots from both sides from the baseline, makes you always play over five to 10 shots in the rally, your physical strength and endurance comes into question.

"I think actually I'm not concerned. I'm really fit and I have no concerns of recovering for the next match. It's just a matter of breathing better through the nose."

Fourth seed Murray is searching for a first major title, having been beaten in the last two Melbourne finals by Roger Federer in 2010 and then Djokovic last year.

The Scot, also beaten by Federer in the 2008 U.S. Open title match, ended the hopes of Japanese 24th seed Kei Nishikori with a 6-3 6-3 6-1 success in their quarterfinal.

"He's definitely very motivated to win his first grand slam," said Djokovic of Murray after reaching his fifth successive grand slam semifinal. "He's been proving to himself and to the rest of the people that the Australian Open is probably his best grand slam.

"But on the other hand I have been playing quite well here in last couple years ... it's definitely going to take a lot of effort to be a winner from that match."

World No. 26 Nishikori was Japan's first Australian Open quarterfinalist since 1932 and the first male player from the country to reach the last eight of a major since Shuzo Matsuoka at Wimbledon in 1995.

Next week he will move into the top-20 for the first time in his career.

Djokovic holds the edge in the head-to-head record against Murray, having won six and lost four of their 10 matches -- including victory in their only clash at a grand slam. That 2011 final defeat sent Murray into a minor form slump, but he bounced back to reach the last four at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.

"I've always liked playing against him. After the year that he had, the loss didn't look so bad six months later," Murray said of Djokovic, who won three of 2011's four grand slam titles.

"I'll need to serve better. I had a sore neck today when I woke up and I wasn't feeling all my serve. But I was returning good, hitting the ball clean from the back of the court, moved forward well. So it was good."

Thursday's first semifinal will see second seed and 10-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal take on Switzerland's No. 4 Federer -- a winner of a record 16 major titles.

Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and Federer have dominated men's tennis in recent years, filling the final four spots at three of the last five grand slams.

At least three of the four top-ranked players have advanced to the semifinals in each of the last seven majors.

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