Juan Martin del Potro has given hope that he can dominate in his first Australian Open appearance in three years after he soared into the semifinals fo the Auckland Classic.
The Argentine star set up a blockbuster against Spanish veteran David Ferrer, beating prodigious Russian Karen Khachanov in straight sets.
In what proved a sterner test than his first-up victory against equally youthful Denis Shapovalov, del Potro on Thursday thrived in all the key moments to win 7-6 (4) 6-3.
He cruised through a first-set tiebreaker after both players could not break serve, before seizing the initiative at the start of the second set.
Taking a 3-0 lead, he served his way to victory, banging 11 aces and nailing 73 per cent of his first serves against a valiant Khachanov.
The 29-year-old del Potro, an ex-US Open champion and the 2009 Classic winner, will face another ex-champion in Ferrer.
Rejuvenated after a tough 2017 campaign, the 35-year-old Ferrer dismantled Korean young gun Hyeon Chung 6-3 6-2 to advance.
On the other side of the draw, Ferrer’s compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut appears a safe bet for the final, drawn for a semi against Dutchman Robin Haase.
Bautista Agut cruised into Friday’s semi-finals with a 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 win over Czech Jiri Vesely, while Haase trumped giant-killing German Peter Gojowczyk.
“Today the conditions were difficult and he was a difficult opponent, serving very well and a lefty, playing with a very flat backhand,” Bautista Agut said.
“It was tough at the beginning, to have rhythm with the ball.
“I served really well in the second set and I tried to play aggressively.”
11 May 2017
When we look at Rafa Nadal on clay, there are a few key points that make him better than e... More
16 February 2017
In the first part of our series analysing the similarities and differences between men's ... More
30 April 2018
Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka will play the Madrid Open, her first competitive event... More