Top seed Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals at the Shanghai Masters 1000 when his opponent, Ivan Ljubicic, retired with a left hip injury just after the pair had split the first two sets. In the semifinals Nadal will battle his friend and countryman Feliciano Lopez who was a 7-6(4), 6-3 winner over Robin Soderling earlier in the day.
Nadal had dropped the first set 6-3 and looked in further trouble when the big-serving Croat held three break points at 0-40 early in the second at 1-1. But Nadal regrouped reeling off four of the next five games and eventually taking the set 6-3.
Following further treatment on his damaged hip, the 30-year-old Ljubicic played just two points in the third before retiring from the match, the eight retirement of the tournament.
“It was tough,” said Nadal. “It was a very difficult match. He was serving very hard and putting a lot of first serves inside. I was lucky after the first set with 0-40, but I played the break points well, so that was very important.”
Rafa owns a 4-1 edge against Lopez including a win in their lone meeting on hardcourts at Madrid last year.
“All the points are going to be very important,” Nadal said of playing Lopez. “I have to be very concentrated with my serve all the time, and later we will see what’s happened. I [will] try to play aggressive when I have the chances on the return and [I] hope, wait a little bit when he has to play a little bit more with second serves.”
“Unfortunately I’m this kind of player,” said Lopez who is appearing in his first ATP semifinal of the year. “I can play very good one week and terrible the next week, but I was convinced that sooner or later it’s going to come, and this week I’m playing really, really good.”
In the first semifinal on Saturday, Novak Djokovic will square off against Nikolay Davydenko.
Djokovic needed three tough sets to eliminate Gilles Simon 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
“It’s certainly one of the toughest [matches I've played in China in the past two weeks],” said Djokovic. “He’s not an easy opponent at all. His quality proves everything in the last year and a half. Every match we had in the last year and a half was like this. I keep on winning and keep on playing those good shots in important moments, and I think that’s what matters. I think I was quite nervous throughout the whole match, because I knew that I would have to work hard for most of the points.”
The 22-year-old Djokovic is through to his fourth straight tour semifinal, a streak that includes Cincinnati, US Open, Beijing and now Shanghai. Djokovic has won two of three career meetings against Davydenko with both wins coming in Shanghai last year.
“I hope I will repeat the same success I had at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai last year against him,” said Djokovic. “It’s kind of a deja vu, playing with Simon [in the] semis and him in the finals.[He's had] so many years on the tour, Nikolay, and [is a] very aggressive player and takes the ball very early. So I will have to have good tactics tomorrow and just be ready for aggression from the other side of the net and hope I will have patience and I’ll be wise enough to win.”
Davydenko pocketed his first Masters semifinal of the year following a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Radek Stepanek.
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