Nadal, Djokovic record wins to reach semi-finals of Rome Masters
NOVAK Djokovic and Rafa Nadal moved a step closer to another possible final showdown after recording straight-set wins in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters on Friday.
Holder and top seed Djokovic survived a tight first set to beat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 6-1 while Nadal, striking the ball better than he has done in months, recorded an impressive 6-4 7-5 victory over in-form Czech Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic and Tsonga exchanged two service breaks apiece but the Serb clinched the opening set when the fifth seed served his first double fault.
The Serb then ran away with the second set to set up a clash with either world number two Roger Federer, or Andreas Seppi of Italy.
Nadal, who slipped behind Federer in the rankings after the Swiss won the Madrid title last weekend, produced an outstanding performance to beat seventh seed Berdych.
The Spaniard, chasing a sixth title in Rome, came from a break down in the second set to clinch victory, celebrating with his arms above his head.
“I played one of my best matches of the year today,” Nadal told a news conference.
“Tomas is a player with a lot of confidence and playing very well, so I am very happy with how I played.
“I did one fantastic thing, in my opinion. I stepped inside the court a lot, with my forehand and my movements were fantastic.” In the semi-finals, Nadal will meet fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who edged out Richard Gasquet of France 7-6 6-3.
Nadal beat Ferrer to win the title in Barcelona last month, but said he would need to play better on Saturday if he is to make the final.
“I was a little bit lucky in some moments in Barcelona,” he said. “I didn’t play my best tennis that day.
“I know I can play better than that and I will have to play my best tennis against David because he is a great player.
“But I am very happy with the way I am playing and the way I have played the whole claycourt season.” Defending champion Maria Sharapova shattered hopes of a Williams sisters double act at the Rome International by breezing past Venus Williams 6-4, 6-3 on Friday to reach the semi-finals.
But Serena Williams, the ninth seed, advanced 4-0 when Italian opponent Flavia Pennetta withdrew with a right wrist injury.
Sharapova will face either fourth seed Petra Kvitova or Germany’s Angelique Kerber today for a place in the final.
Williams will next face China’s Li Na, who fought off a case of late jitters to beat Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 7-6 (7/4).
French Open champion Li was leading comfortably 6-1, 5-2 when her game became crippled by caution with the Chinese star only managing to snatch the win in a tense tiebreaker.
“I’m not worried about the forehands or the backhands, it’s finishing the matches that is my problem,” said Li, the world number nine, who has not won a title since her Paris triumph almost a year ago.
“There is not one player out there who gives up in a match, everyone is playing at such a high level. That’s my problem - I need to win easier. It’s a big problem for me to close out the matches.”