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World No 1 Novak Djokovic is through to the final of the 2013 Australian Open men's singles competition, after beating fourth seed David Ferrer of Spain in straight sets.
Djokovic, the defending champion and a three-time winner at Melbourne, is now in his third straight Australian Open final.
The Serbian had a surprisingly easy semi-final in the Rod Laver Arena, despite speculation Ferrer would push the top seed all the way. Both players were forced to dig deep during their quarter-final encounters, with Djokovic being taken to four sets by fifth seed Tomas Berdych and Ferrer to five by compatriot and tenth seed Nicolas Almagro. Prior to that, Djokovic played an exhausting five-set match against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka , with the Serbian prevailing 12-10 in the decider.
The world No 1 will now face the winner of the second semi-final, to be played on Friday, between second seed and four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer and third seed Andy Murray, Great Britain's No 1.
Meanwhile, there was a massive shock earlier in the day, when second seed and former world No 1 Maria Sharapova of Russia was hammered by China's Na Li. The 30-year-old 2011 French Open champion was clinical in her 6-2, 6-2 demolition of the 2008 women's singles champion.
The result was all the more surprising because the 25-year-old Sharapova had been as clinical as her opponent all through the tournament, dropping only nine games up until the semi-final and not a single set.
"I think she played a really great match. She was certainly much more aggressive than I was, dictating the play. I was always on the defense. When I had my opportunities and break points in games that went to deuce, I don't think any of them really went my way today," Sharapova confessed after the match.
Na Li's opponent in the women's singles final will be world No 1 Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian, the defending champion and top seed, continues to be in frighteningly impressive form. The 23-year-old dismissed American Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-1, an achievement all the more notable because the 19-year-old 29th seed saw off the challenge of former world No 1 and five-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams in the previous round.