Melbourne all set for Australian Open semi-final thrillers

Old acquaintances will be forgotten as some old scores are ready to be settled

Dani Vallverdu has insisted Tomas Berdych will not have the edge over Andy Murray in today's semi-final and also disagreed with Murray's version of their split at the end of last year.

While the Scot maintains that the parting of ways with Vallverdu, who was part of his coaching team under Ivan Lendl, arose because they were not all "pulling in the same direction", the Venezuelan sees things differently.

“To be honest, I don’t know what he means by that, at least from my side,” he said. “I haven’t been involved with his conversations with Jez [Green, the also departed fitness coach] but it’s pointless to talk about it now. Things are what they are, he is in a great place and I’m pleased for him and that he has come back to the top of his game.”

Getting back to the top of his game has enabled Murray to set up today’s last-four meeting with Berdych, now Vallverdu’s employer. The coach, though, does not think his knowledge of the Murray game will give Berdych any advantage on the Rod Laver Arena.


Know each other

“It’s not rocket science,” Vallverdu said. “They have played each other 10 times before and know each other pretty well. It’s going to be more about Tomas worrying about what’s going on on his side of the court and executing his game. It’s not going to be that complicated, he knows what to do, we are on the same page. I don’t think it’s much of an advantage.

Vallverdu said he has not seen much of Murray on the circuit since they split two months ago. “He was in Miami in the off-season, I was in the Czech Republic with Tomas, then we were at different tournaments, so we have different schedules. And we’ve had different schedules here also. It’s not really the time to be socialising.

“He feels he is in a good place physically but he has always been fit, it has always been a strength of his. When he was winning slams and the Olympics he was as fit as anyone on the tour, so he’s been very fit his whole career. Last year, it was normal he might not have been as fit, he went through back surgery – that’s normal that it takes a bit of time to get back to where you were physically before surgery. I don’t see it as any different to where he was two or three years ago.”


Meanwhile, after booking a much-anticipated semi-final with his

Australian Open

title usurper

Stan Wawrinka

on Wednesday, Novak Djokovic wasted little time reminding the Swiss of the heavy burden of being defending champion.

Djokovic’s three-year reign at Melbourne Park was ended by the Swiss last January in an epic five-set quarter-final, which followed a year after fending off Wawrinka in another nerve-jangling marathon in the fourth round.

The top-seeded Serb ensured there would be a third instalment of their blockbuster series Down Under by thrashing eighth seed Milos Raonic 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2 after Wawrinka dismantled fifth seed Kei Nishikori in the earlier quarter-final on Wednesday.

Djokovic praised Wawrinka’s impressive win over Nishikori, having watched it closely, but was also glowing about his own form ahead of the showdown.

“He played a great match,” Djokovic said of Wawrinka’s big win. “Kei has been playing his best tennis in the last 12 months. To be able to win straight sets against him is pretty impressive. Being the defending champion, obviously he’s got some of the pressure here. He is facing this kind of role for the first time in his life.”

Already in scintillating form, Djokovic raised his level again in routing Raonic, who was supposed to offer the first real test for the Serb. He cancelled out the Canadian’s formidable serve with a clinical returning game, breaking him three times while not giving up a single break point from his own racquet. Guardian service