Zvonareva beats Kvitova to advance to semifinals

Vera Zvonareva started the Australia Day proceedings at Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Petra Kvitova on Wednesday, advancing to the Australian Open semifinals.

Russia’s Vera Zvonareva

Russia’s Vera Zvonareva

MELBOURNE, Australia — Vera Zvonareva started the Australia Day proceedings at Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Petra Kvitova on Wednesday, advancing to the Australian Open semifinals.

With many patrons draped in Australian flags and others wearing customary Outback-style hats in honour of the country’s national holiday, Zvonareva advanced to a semifinal against either U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters or Agnieszka Radwanska.

Zvonareva and Kvitova were surprised during the match when cannons went off in a nearby park. And Zvonareva asked that the match be stopped for a few minutes while a woman in her sightline was given medical attention in the stands, but chair umpire Mariana Alves told them 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. “You’re here to play tennis … I was trying to keep my concentration.”

On Tuesday, Roger Federer was reluctant to talk about possibly playing Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final, and with good reason.

After all, he’s playing Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.

Federer and Nadal have dominated the Grand Slam tournaments, winning 21 of the last 23 titles. But Djokovic is dangerous, and Federer knows his one-match-at-a-time mantra is sound strategy.

“He takes it to the opponent,” Federer said.

Federer routed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in the first all-Swiss quarterfinal at a major. Djokovic eliminated Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych 6-1, 7-6 (5), 6-1 on Tuesday night.

On the women’s side, Caroline Wozniacki beat Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in one quarterfinal, and Li Na defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 in the other.

It was at this stage of the 2008 Australian Open that Djokovic beat Federer before going on to win his first and only Grand Slam singles title. Federer also lost to Djokovic after having two match points in the U.S. Open semifinals last September.

A mental lapse at Flushing Meadows cost Federer.

“I was playing good enough to win,” Federer said. “But I was a bit confused mentally, maybe, because we played the second session. … Maybe I just felt like I have to get out of this match as quick as I could to save energy to play Rafa the next day. I think it ended up hurting me losing the match at the end.”

It ended a sequence for Federer of six straight finals appearances in New York.

And then Djokovic lost to Nadal in the final, giving the Spaniard his first U.S. Open title. That set him on the path toward his Rafa Slam — Nadal is aiming to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once.

Federer has twice won three consecutive majors, only to be deprived by Nadal — both times at the French Open.

Nadal plays the night quarterfinal Wednesday against David Ferrer. He has an 11-3 lead in head-to-heads. A win could set up a semifinal against Andy Murray, the only man to beat Nadal in a major in 2010. Murray takes on Alexandr Dolgopolov, the breakthrough player of the tournament, in Wednesday’s other quarterfinal.

Dolgopolov already has beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling in his run to his first major quarterfinal.

Federer is aiming to become the second man to win five Australian Open titles — Roy Emerson won six. Federer lost the 2009 Australian final to Nadal, and didn’t even make the championship match the previous year, when he entered the tournament as the two-time defending champ.

Federer was slowed by mononucleosis in 2008, and Djokovic capitalized.

“If I look back, I think Novak played another good match. He was very confident,” Federer said. “He played a great tournament, which he also ended up winning. Both times he beat me, he played really well.”

Federer has a 13-6 record against Djokovic and has won the last three since the U.S. Open. He has also won four of their six Grand Slam contests — but those two wins by Djokovic have been in big matches.

“He’s a quality player who plays really offensive,” Federer said.

After his victory over Berdych, Djokovic said he is still basking in Serbia’s first Davis Cup title and it has given him extra confidence.

“Coming in here I was physically prepared, mentally motivated to make some success. So far it’s been great,” he said. “Today has been a real test, because he’s No. 6 of the world and a very difficult opponent.

“I’ve played one of my best tennis in the last couple months. So I have nothing to lose playing Federer, who’s the title defender here. We all know everything about him. I have to believe in myself in order to win that match.”

Wozniacki showed plenty of belief, coming back from a set and a break down to defeat Schiavone, the French Open champion who was seeded sixth. Schiavone had reached the last eight after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets in four hours 44 minutes, the longest Grand Slam women’s singles match on record.

“Maybe in the third set I felt a little bit something physically, but it’s not an excuse,” Schiavone said. “I think I gave the best that I could do.”

Wozniacki needed a medical timeout for painkillers and treatment on her left thigh after losing the first set. Her game improved after she removed the wrapping later in the second set.

Schiavone “started off really, really well and I didn’t feel like I had the right timing,” Wozniacki said. “So it was difficult for me in the beginning, but I fought back and I’m so happy that I’m standing here as the winner.”

Li, seeded No. 9, beat Petkovic to extend her winning streak to 10 matches after capturing the title in a Sydney tuneup tournament. No Chinese woman has won a major, but Petkovic says Li has what it takes.

“I think she played really well. I think she’s going to win the tournament,” the 30th-seeded German said.