Fourth seed Murray continued his serene progress at the year’s first grand slam with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 quarter-final triumph over Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
But the one-sided scoreline masked a rustiness in the Scot’s game that saw him succeed with just 44 per cent of first serves and make three double faults.
With Djokovic, the man who beat him in last year’s final, ruthlessly despatching another victim in fifth seed David Ferrer yesterday, Murray knows he must improve.
“It was a good match, a lot of fun points, but I need to serve better,” he said, after beating Nishikori.
“I didn’t serve particularly well but the returning was good so that was a positive. My game’s been getting better each match, I’m moving better and I’m feeling fresher”
Murray’s easy early rounds aided him against Nishikori, the first Japanese player to reach the Melbourne last eight for 80 years, who appeared to tire as the match wore on. The 24th seed had been on court four hours longer than Murray before yesterday’s meeting, and it showed as his resistance waned the closer his opponent got to a fifth successive grand slam semi-final.
There he will meet Djokovic, after the Serb’s progress ensured they, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – the men’s tour’s big four – will occupy the last four places of a grand slam for the third time in a year.
Djokovic defied physical impairment to beat Ferrer 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 and stay on course for a fourth grand slam title in five attempts, having seemingly hurt his hamstring and suffered breathing problems. “I felt my nose was closed a little bit,” he said. “I just wasn’t able to get enough oxygen.”