Apr 01, 2016

    Djokovic plays through back pain to reach semis


    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 ATP and WTA Miami Open semi-finals.

    The world No. 1, trying to match Andre Agassi's record of six Miami titles with his third in a row, will play Belgian 15th seed David Goffin today for a berth in Sunday's final.

    The 28-year-old Serb won his 14th consecutive match at the hard-court event and his 28th out of 29.

    But he 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."

    Asked if he had any worries the spasms might become a long-term issue, Djokovic said: "No concerns.

    "None at all."

    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.

    Berdych lost his 10th consecutive match to Djokovic, whose domination of their career rivalry reached 23-2.

    Berdych's last victory over the Serb was in a 2013 Rome quarter-final.

    "Overall, this is the best match I've played in the tournament," Djokovic said.

    "I feel better than I did last year at the same stage. I'm hoping I can keep the same trajectory."

    Djokovic won his 11th Grand Slam title two months ago at the Australian Open and also has crowns this year at Indian Wells and Doha.