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TENNIS

Spaniard to reach Australia semis for third year running

Ferrer and Almagro to meet in Melbourne last eight

Spain's Nicolás Almagro gestures after victory in his men's singles match against Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic.
Spain's Nicolás Almagro gestures after victory in his men's singles match against Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic. AFP

Nadal may be absent, but the Spanish Armada remains afloat in the men’s singles down under. For the third consecutive year, there will be a Spaniard in the semifinals of the Australian Open. David Ferrer and Nicolás Almagro both got through their last-16 ties to set up a quarterfinal encounter with each other in Melbourne.

Ferrer overcame Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday, while Almagro made it past Janko Tipsarevic, the Serbian being forced to retire with a foot injury with the score at 6-2, 5-1 in the Spanish player’s favor.

World number five Ferrer holds a 12-0 record against Almagro, who has never qualified for the quarters of a hard-court Grand Slam event before. The Valencian — who is guaranteed to take the number-four ranking spot from the injured Rafael Nadal next week — is continuing the rich run of form he enjoyed last year, having already triumphed in Auckland, for the fourth time, in 2013. Now the talk is whether, at 31, he has what it takes to grab a first-ever Grand Slam victory.

“It is very difficult,” he said during an on-court interview after the win over Nishikori — the 499th of his career. “But I am not thinking about if I have the chance to win a Grand Slam. I am only focused with every match I will play.

“Today I played very good, one of the best matches of my career in the Australian Open,” he added. “I’m very happy with my game. The result, it was in three sets, but the game, it was very, very difficult to beat Nishikori.”

Tenth-seed Almagro sees the meeting as a good opportunity to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. “I’m ready to fight,” he said. “I’m healthy and I’m happy with my tennis. I think I’m playing really good. He’s hitting the ball with a lot of confidence, and we’ll see what happens on Tuesday.”