Melbourne - Andy Murray moved smoothly into the
Australian Open's last four with an entertaining win over Japan's Kei
Nishikori on Wednesday, as Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova also reached
Despite sometimes being caught flat-footed by the
flamboyant Nishikori, Murray ended the 22-year-old's historic run 6-3,
6-3, 6-1 in just 2hr 12min to stay on course for a semi-final clash on
Friday with top seed Novak Djokovic.
Murray is now into his fifth
consecutive grand slam semi-final as he seeks the first major win by a
British man in 76 years, and is still on course for his third straight
Melbourne title match.
After heavy defeats by Roger Federer and
Djokovic in the past two finals, Murray has progressed almost unnoticed,
but Ivan Lendl's new charge is unbeaten this year and has dropped just
one set in reaching the last four.
Importantly Murray, whose
previous opponent retired hurt, has been barely detained on court so
far, leaving him physically fresh for his semi-final against either
Djokovic or Spain's David Ferrer, who play later.
"I'm going to
have to play a lot of long points and a lot of tough points against
either Ferrer or Novak, so it's good that I'm fresh," Murray said.
Four-time winner Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the 2009 champion, will be in action in the other semi-final on Thursday.
the women's draw, burgeoning star Petra Kvitova and glamorous Russian
Maria Sharapova set up a hotly anticipated rematch of last year's
Wimbledon decider with quarter-final wins Wednesday.
enjoyed a breakthrough victory over Sharapova at Wimbledon in July, beat
Italy's Sara Errani 6-4, 6-4, before Sharapova ended the fairytale run
of 56th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals.
is the first time Sharapova has reached the final four in Melbourne
since 2008, when she claimed the most recent of her three major
The photogenic blonde has since suffered injury problems
and she said her return to contention for grand slam titles vindicated
her hard work in recovery and training.
"It's been a long road
back to this big stage, but after hitting the winning shot you look back
and think everything was worth it, no matter how tough it was," she
Later on the centre court, Nishikori wowed the crowd with a
between-the-legs trick shot but could not produce the tennis to
seriously trouble the British number one and fourth seed Murray.
thought it was a good match. There were a lot of good points. Most of
the fun points he was winning so I was trying to keep them as short as
possible," said Murray, who was on target with only 44 percent of first
"I need to serve better. I didn't serve particularly well but the returning was good so that was a positive," he added.
broke the Japanese 24th seed seven times in total while he was broken
twice. Murray, still seeking his first grand slam win, is unbeaten this
year after he won the Brisbane title earlier this month,
the highest male Japanese player in rankings history, was the first
Japanese man to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in the