Two time ATP Masters 1000 Rome titlist Novak Djokovic battled hard to get past formidable world number five David Ferrer. The Serbian duked it out for two hours and thirty-two minutes, and in the end managed to down his Spanish opponent in three tough sets with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 score.
Djokovic won the title in 2008 and 2011 against Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka, and the King of Clay himself, Rafael Nadal respectively. Back in 2008 Djokovic had to rally from behind to defeat Warinka in three sets (4-6, 6-3, 6-3). In his best year ever (2011) which saw him usurp Nadal as number one in the world, Djokovic won the Rome final handily in straight sets (6-4, 6-4).
Bidding for a “hat trick” in the Eternal City, the world number two had to regroup after being broken at 5-3 as he served for the first set. He managed to recover and clinch it with a crucial break in the twelfth game.
David Ferrer fought back to win the second set. The Spaniard held firm after breaking the Serb in the seventh game, and leveled the match at a set a piece. Djokovic was trailing after going down 3-1 in the deciding set, but the eighteen time ATP Master Series 1000 champion (third all time) was able to raise his intensity to regain the initiative.
Djokovic double faulted on his first match point in the decider. Not to be denied, he made no mistakes as he closed out the match on the second time of asking to reach his forty-first quarterfinal at an ATP Master Series 1000 event. A victory this week would add another 1000 shield to the Indian Wells-Miami double (second time) he won earlier this year. After downing Ferrer in three sets, the Belgrade native will have to face the booming Canadian Milos Raonic in the semifinals.
Into his second ATP Master Series 1000 semifinal, the 23-year-old right hander had to steady himself against the man who beat Federer earlier this week. Firing 14 aces, Raonic closed out his quarterfinal match against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
On the other side of the draw, defending champion Rafael Nadal had to rally from behind to overcome Briton Andy Murray. Murray started strong, racing through the first set in thirty-eight minutes with a score of 6-1. Nadal is the “King of Clay” for good reason, and raised his game to level the match by winning the second set 6-3.
Down a break in the third set after exchanging breaks to open it, Nadal fought back to level terms and broke decisively at Love to go up 6-5 in the final set. Finishing strong, the left-hander closed out his second come-from-behind victory this week. The world number one had to bounce back against Mikhail Youzhny in the previous round.
Coming off his victory at the ATP Master Series 1000 tournament in Madrid, Nadal has been shaky at times, but has grinded his way through to the semifinals. He will face Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who celebrated his twenty-third birthday today. He advanced when German veteran Tommy Haas had to retire with a shoulder injury.
The semifinals are set, and the prospect of a mouth-watering Nadal vs Djokovic final is possible. With Nadal’s triumph over Murray, and Djokovic downing Ferrer in three sets, the two top seeds will have to get past a pair of young guns. Dimitrov and Raonic are both hungry for their first taste of ATP Master Series 1000 victory, and they will not go down without a fight.
Commentary by J. Benjamin