Novak Djokovic is no stranger to serene progress in the latter stages of Grand Slams, but there was no extra effort required to seal his place in the semifinals of the Australian Open this year as Kei Nishikori waved the white flag after going down 6-1, 4-1 on Rod Laver Arena.
The Japanese received a medical timeout at the end of a dispiriting opening set, his movement inhibited by a troublesome thigh injury before he gave the umpire a shake of the end as Djokovic motored into a double break lead in set two. He has played through the pain barrier so often in his career to his own detriment that allowing his body to win this battle was the smart move.
Djokovic offered his condolences, but his immediate focus nevertheless will be on his 34th major semifinal. Lucas Pouille, who he has never faced in his career, is lurking with intent.
Eyeing a seventh title
The Frenchman stunned Milos Raonic, 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4, in his quarterfinal clash earlier in the afternoon and said of his rediscovered form: "When I made quarterfinal of Wimbledon then the US Open [in 2016], it came really fast, then the year after I didn't really win a lot of matches. Last year I lost a lot of joy to be on court, but I'm starting a new adventure with my team."
It is 11 years since Djokovic made his first final in Melbourne and he will be hoping to avoid a similar landscape-shifting result on Friday against Pouille that he produced in the semifinals against Roger Federer in 2008.
The Serb said: "Obviously it's his first semifinal at a Grand Slam, but he won against Nadal in New York all those years ago [in 2016]. He's made a couple of scalps at the big tournaments.
"He's not afraid to play his best on the biggest stage, so I expect him to come out and be very confident about himself."
Djokovic has spent four and a half hours less on court than the Frenchman ahead of their semifinal clash and he would have welcomed the reduced workout against the Japanese after laboring briefly against Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round.
He added: "This is exactly what the doctor ordered. After that match two nights ago, not to spend too much time on court, especially after playing a lot of matches already this year."
A losing effort
He broke the resistance of Nishikori instantly, pouncing on his first break point opportunity, before securing the double break in the sixth game of the set.
That was when the first cracks began to appear in Nishikori's movement, frequently shaking out his right leg, and it was apparent that his exertions these last two weeks were finally catching up on him.
He was stretched to five sets in his opening two matches against 176th-ranked Kamil Majchrzak and 73rd-ranked Ivo Karlovic respectively, before playing out the longest match of the tournament against Pablo Carreno Busta in the previous round.
The trainer was summoned at the end of the first set and the world number nine caught wind with a hold to 15 to begin set two, but that only served to delay the inevitable.
Djokovic broke for a 2-1 advantage and when he ripped a forehand winner in the fifth game to widen the gap on the scoreboard, Nishikori surrendered.