By Greg Stutchbury
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Playing near perfect tennis, Novak Djokovic sent an emphatic warning to Roger Federer and Andy Murray by destroying fourth seed David Ferrer 6-2 6-2 6-1 in the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday.
Murray and Federer meet on Friday and although they will be concentrating on each other they must surely have been impressed by the clinical demolition of Ferrer by the two-times defending champion at Melbourne Park.
"I was aware of David's qualities. I wanted to be aggressive on the court and this was definitely one of the best matches of my career," said the 25-year-old Djokovic who is seeking to become the first man in the professional era to win three successive Australian Open titles.
"It can only do positive things to my confidence. Definitely at this stage of a tournament, playing semi-finals against the world number four, somebody that I have respect for, great competitor, and being able to perform as well as I did, it's incredible," the Serb added.
"I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment. Now I have a two days off before the finals which gives me enough time to get ready and recover."
The world number one was in no mood to allow Ferrer the opportunity to come back from a two-set deficit as the Spaniard did against compatriot Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals, and he stamped his authority on the match early.
He seized the initiative after the fourth game when he began to attack Ferrer's serve and work him around the court.
The Serb ramped up his own service game and reeled off his next three to love before wrapping up the first set in a quickfire 29 minutes.
Djokovic's serve was utterly dominant, winning more than 90 percent of his first serve points and almost 80 percent of his second, conceding only seven points on serve in the entire match and not having to face a single break point.
He converted all seven of his own break opportunities.
The second set was just as emphatic, with few in Rod Laver Arena able to draw breath as Djokovic extended his run of holding service games to love to five with a barrage of winners.
The third set continued in the same vein with Ferrer under pressure on his serve and Djokovic running riot when he had the ball in hand.
His dominance was highlighted in the fourth game of the third set when he broke Ferrer to love.
"You need to focus on every point and even though I was two sets up I didn't want to give him any points," Djokovic added of his mental toughness.
Ferrer will rise to fourth in the world after the tournament but the 30-year-old said beforehand that he was only going that high due to a long-term injury to compatriot Rafa Nadal and that there was still a gap between himself and the 'Big Four' of Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal.
Djokovic underlined that statement in emphatic fashion, making it appear that he was playing a 400th-ranked player rather than a man who won seven titles in 2012 and had been to four previous grand slam semi-finals.
"He play very, very good," Ferrer said before adding he felt it was the best he had seen the Serb play. "I didn't have any chance to win tonight.
"He was better (than me) in all the moments."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)