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Nadal powers past Djokovic into last four

May 12, 2007 08:20 IST

Rafael Nadal swept towards a third consecutive Rome Masters title, beating fifth seed Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-3 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

The world number two, whose victory took his winning streak on clay to 75 matches, went through to a semi-final against fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko, who beat Tommy Robredo 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

In the other half of the draw, wildcard Filippo Volandri swept aside 12th-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-3 to become the first Italian player to reach the last four since Adriano Panatta in 1978.

Volandri will next face sixth seed Fernando Gonzalez, who beat Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic had beaten Nadal on the way to winning the Miami Masters in April. That result, along with the 19-year-old Serb's victory at last week's claycourt event in Estoril, had raised expectations he might pull off an upset.

Instead, Nadal dominated the early stages of the match, bludgeoning Djokovic with heavy groundstrokes to break in the opening game of the match.

Djokovic saved seven break points in his next two service games but when Nadal whipped a crosscourt winner past him to create another break point in the seventh game he cracked, putting a drop-volley into the tramlines to go 5-2 down.

Nadal served out for the first set with typical aplomb. Midway through the game he looped a crosscourt pass on to the baseline with Djokovic stranded at the net.

Djokovic walked slowly back, looked at the mark the ball had made on the baseline and crossed himself.


intensity of the contest dipped slightly at the start of the second set as errors crept into both players' games but a pair of long forehands in the seventh game gave Nadal a break.


In the ninth game Djokovic netted a routine volley and a backhand to lose serve again and with it the match.

"I had to play at my best level -- 100 percent on every point because Djokovic is a very good player," said Nadal.

"He served very well on the big points but in the end I played more consistently, and that was the difference."

Nadal beat semi-final opponent Davydenko in their only previous meeting in last year's season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai.

On clay, Nadal should prove almost unbeatable, but the 20-year-old Spaniard insisted he was expecting a touch match against the Russian.

"He's playing very good tennis, hitting hard on both sides. He can beat me," he said.

World number 53 Volandri had caused the shock of the tournament by beating Roger Federer in the last 16.

He kept up his momentum against Berdych, losing just five points on his serve on the way to a comfortable victory.

"This win was just as important as yesterday's. Berdych might not be Federer but he's still an excellent player," Volandri said.

"I played another perfect match today -- another fairly easy win. I feel really solid, really confident at the moment."

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