Melbourne VIC, Australia, 14 December 2016 | Matt Trollope

John-Patrick Smith advanced to the semifinals of the Australian Open Play-off for the fourth time after beating top seed Andrew Whittington in straight sets.

Smith kept the ball in play and frequently goaded his frustrated younger opponent into error, winning 7-5 6-4 7-6(9) on Wednesday.

In the last four he will face Blake Mott, who crushed No.4 seed Marc Polmans 6-2 6-2 6-3.

> view the Australian Open Play-off men’s draw

“Really tough conditions. Really hard to put balls away. Serving well was tough out there, we both struggled … in the end it was just who made the most balls, and thankfully I got through that. The tiebreak was really tight,” Smith said.

“We could easily still be playing in the fourth or fifth set if he got that.”

Smith frequently approached the net behind his serve and varied the spins, placement and trajectories of his shots, keeping the erratic Whittington at bay.

The No.1 seed lifted his level in the third set, but could never string a run of games together. Whittington – who struggled with illness in his five-set struggle on Monday – managed to save three match points in the tiebreak but couldn’t stop the Queenslander on his fourth opportunity.

The victory continues Smith’s strong history of results at the Australian Open Play-off.

He reached the last four in 2012 and 2013 and went all the way to the final in 2014, where he lost to Jordan Thompson in five brutal sets.

Smith beat Mott just over a month ago in the first round of the ATP Challenger in Canberra.

“I don’t want to put to much pressure on myself (to win here). Two years ago, I mean that was a heartbreaker, 9-7 in the fifth (in the final), that was tough. I want to just go out there and enjoy every day and event that I’m playing. And if I get it (the wildcard), I get it,” Smith said.

“I’ve played well here. I’m glad I’ve got a lot of matches under my belt here and I think it always helps me for the Aussie summer ahead.

“This tournament is so strong, if you look at all the players that are here. If everyone plays well – I mean look at the Mott result. I thought Marky (Marc Polmans) was playing well and Mott goes out there (and does that).”

For more information, visit the Australian Open Play-off homepage.