Top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic withstood back spasms throughout the second set on Wednesday to defeat Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3 and reach the Miami Open semi-finals.
Djokovic, trying to match Andre Agassi’s record of six Miami titles with his third in a row, is to play Belgian 15th seed David Goffin today for a berth in Sunday’s final.
The 28-year-old Serbian won his 14th consecutive match at the hardcourt event and his 28th out of 29, but needed a gritty performance after back pain began early in the second set, prompting him to have massage therapy before serving in the sixth game.
“Due to windy conditions on the court, it was hard to find a good rhythm to serve,” Djokovic said. “I had a little bit of a spasm in the back, but [the trainer] did a great job and I was able to finish the match.”
Berdych lost his 10th consecutive match to Djokovic, whose domination of their career rivalry reached 23-2.
Djokovic blasted a crosscourt forehand winner to break Berdych for a 3-1 lead and held from there to claim the first set, in which the Czech had 21 unforced errors.
Berdych surrendered a break to open the second set, but Djokovic first reached for his lower back in the next game, although he held and broke again to end the match.
Goffin matched his semi-final run from Indian Wells by downing French 18th seed Gilles Simon 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“Feeling great,” Goffin said. “Confident for the rest of the week and the season.”
However, he is 0-3 against Djokovic, losing in the 2013 French Open first round and at Cincinnati in 2013 and last year.
“He is going to be very dangerous, but I like my chances,” Djokovic said.
On the women’s side, reigning Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, the second seed from Germany, and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus advanced to a semi-final showdown.
Both have finals wins over top-ranked Serena Williams this year; Kerber at the Australian Open and Azarenka at Indian Wells.
Former world No. 1 Azarenka defeated British 24th seed Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2, while Kerber cruised into the semi-finals, downing US 22nd seed Madison Keys 6-3, 6-2.
The German second seed, the last of the top 12 remaining, is 1-6 against Azarenka, but won their most recent meeting in the Australian Open quarter-finals on the way to the title.
“We have played some really tough matches,” Kerber said. “I know I have to play my best tennis against her. I will be ready.”
Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova meets Swiss 19th seed Timea Bacsinszky in the other semi-final. The 30-year-old Russian has won both their previous meetings.
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