MELBOURNE, Australia – Andy Murray had a struggle on his hands today, constantly trying to find his rhythm against Alexandr Dolgopolov before advancing 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3 to the Australian Open semifinals and a possible showdown with Rafael Nadal.
Dolgopolov had already beaten 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and French Open finalist Robin Soderling and has the kind of unorthodox game that can unsettle higher-ranked players.
Apart from the second set, when 2010 finalist Murray didn’t lose a point on serve until he had triple set point, momentum swung frequently.
Fifth-ranked Murray will await the winner of today’s later all-Spanish quarterfinal between Nadal and No. 7 David Ferrer. Murray was the only man to beat Nadal in a major last year – here in the quarterfinals. Nadal went on to win the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles and is aiming to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four majors at once.
U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters is the growing favorite in the women’s draw. She advanced to a semifinal against No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, whom she beat in the last U.S. Open final.
Clijsters had some nervous moments in her 6-3, 7-6 (4) win over No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska, but really only when some air force planes flew in formation overhead as part of celebrations for the national holiday.
Cannons went off earlier when Zvonareva started the Australia Day proceedings at Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Petra Kvitova.
Clijsters is the only Grand Slam winner into the women’s semis, although she’s still seeking her first major title outside of America. No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and China’s Li Na meet in the other half.
“I hope the experience can help me a little bit,” Clijsters said. “But there are some tough players out there, we have Nos. 1, 2, 3 still in and Li Na has been playing really well. So it is going to be really tough.
“I lost to Vera at Wimbledon last year, I beat her in finals of U.S. Open.”
Zvonareva has lost the last two Grand Slam finals, to Clijsters in New York and Serena Williams at Wimbledon.
Clijsters was up a set and a break before Radwanska rallied, winning three straight games to lead 5-4 with a chance to serve for the second set.
With six Royal Australian Air Force “Roulettes” flying overhead, Clijsters converted her fourth break-point chance to tie it at 5 and the set went to a tiebreaker.
“I think the planes kind of took me up higher!” joked Clijsters, long a crowd favorite in Australia, where she’s still called “Aussie Kim.” She also was engaged for a time to former No. 1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt.
Zvonareva wore a black ribbon on her hat in honor of the 35 victims of the suicide bombing at a Moscow airport this week. Her quarterfinal also featured a couple distractions.
Zvonareva and Kvitova were surprised when cannons went off in a nearby park. Zvonareva asked that the match be stopped for a few minutes while a woman in her sight line was given medical attention in the stands, but chair umpire Mariana Alves said to continue.
“I didn’t know they were going to start this noise during our match, it was a difficult moment,” said Zvonareva, who led the final set 3-0 before the disruptions but saw Kvitova level it at 4-4.