Spain's Fernando Verdasco advanced to his first grand slam semi-final after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France – and credited childhood hero Andre Agassi with his improved showings at the Australian Open.
|Verdasco (left) and Tsonga decide on the sporting approach [AFP]
Verdasco overwhelmed Tsonga 7-6 3-6 6-3 6-2 in a little under three hours with the roof closed against the January heat on the Rod Laver centre court.
Tsonga made the final at last year's Australian Open but failed to take his opportunities against Verdasco, converting just two of 13 break points in the match, while his opponent cashed in on each of his four break points.
"I think Fernando played better than me. He was more aggressive," Tsonga said on Wednesday.
"He served better than me and that's it. Every time I got the possibility to make a break, I missed or Fernando played a good point."
Verdasco has been one of the most improved players in men's tennis over the past year and by reaching the semi-finals in Australia, he will break into the top 10 for the first time.
The 25-year-old credits his improved performance in Australia to the confidence he gained from the experience of helping Spain win last year's Davis Cup final in Argentina – as well as meeting up with Agassi.
"That Davis Cup, I've said too many times, changed my life," Verdasco said.
"It gave me a lot of confidence and mentally made me much stronger for these matches here – and also the pressure."
Buoyed by the Davis Cup win, Verdasco spent the off-season training in Las Vegas with Agassi's former fitness coach Gil Reyes and came away inspired.
"Agassi was my idol when I was young," Verdasco said.
"He gave me some advice about what tournaments I need to play or which weeks I need to practise and be ready for the big tournaments.
"Also, about tactics, about my game, how he thinks that I should play more and take more advantage of my game. He really helped me so much."