Novak Djokovic overcame a stern test of his capabilities to reach the Internazionali d’Italia semi-finals at the expense of Rafael Nadal on Friday, winning 7-5 7-6 (7-4).
Having started brightly, Djokovic fell a break down to his familiar Spanish opponent, but the world number one rallied to win a marathon seventh game and wrapped up the set on his opponent’s serve.
Djokovic was dealt an immediate setback when he was broken in the opening game of the second set, but Nadal squandered five set points, allowing the Serbian to restore parity.
And Djokovic did not need a second invitation to pounce on the wounded Nadal, clinching victory in the tie-breaker.
Kei Nishikori awaits Djokovic in the last four following his 6-3 7-5 win against Dominic Thiem, while Andy Murray – a 6-1 7-5 victor over David Goffin – will face off against Lucas Pouille.
Pouille progressed after Juan Monaco withdrew from the tournament with a hip injury.
DJOKOVIC FIRES ANOTHER WARNING SHOT
Just five days after maintaining his dominant record over Murray with victory in the Madrid Open final, Djokovic picked up another win over one of his fiercest rivals as the French Open approaches.
The French is the only grand slam to have eluded Djokovic so far, but his ominous form will give the likes of Murray and Nadal, for whom the nature of this latest defeat will have made it hurt all the more, cause for concern.
Djokovic has now won 15 sets in succession against Nadal – a nine-time winner at Roland Garros.
“Winning against Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay courts and one of the toughest challenges we have in sport,” he said. “I have to be very pleased with the way I handled myself in the big moments today.
“I won against one of my biggest rivals on his preferred surface.”
MURRAY OVERCOMES EARLY SCARE
Having shocked Tomas Berdych in a 6-0 6-0 win in the previous round, David Goffin threatened another upset when he broke Murray in the first game.
However, the second seed responded in emphatic fashion by scooping the next six to go a set up, before the Briton edged a second in which there were seven breaks of serve.