- French Open, Day 11
Djokovic & Nadal finalise semi-final showdown
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will go into their blockbuster semi-final clash in high spirits and with much of their energy conserved after dominating their respective quarter-finals in Paris on Wednesday.
Playing at the same time on Roland Garros' two show courts, the two top male players left in the tournament needed just three sets apiece to secure their long-awaited, and generally expected, last four meeting.
Djokovic, playing on Court Suzanne Lenglen, clinically saw off Tommy Haas 6-3 7-6(5) 7-5 as Nadal put on a similar clinic over on Philippe Chatrier; the seven-time champion breezing by a combustible Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 6-1.
The pair will now meet on Friday for a place in the final - a repeat of last year's championship match, won on that occasion by Nadal.
There will be no complaints from either player about recovery time come Friday, as the two quarter-finals finished within minutes of each other.
Both second in the day's order of play behind the two ladies' quarter-finals, it was Djokovic who made it onto court a few moments before his upcoming opponent. Initially he struggled to show his superiority over the 35-year-old German, as the match went with serve for the first six games. But Djokovic them suddenly found his range, with a brutal forehand down the line clinching him a break that would duly enable him to take the stanza with another break two games later.
The second set was less straightforward. Djokovic continued to exert pressure on the Haas serve but was unable to find the crucial break, as the wily German found impressive shots at the right times to remain firmly in the frame.
At no time was that more in evidence than when serving at 5-6, as Djokovic took the game to deuce but, thanks to a beautiful one-handed backhand that found the line, Haas managed to escape to force the tiebreak.
The German, in a change from the action that had preceded it, actually took the early lead in the breaker - but Djokovic would not be discouraged, fighting back (thanks in part to some very close line calls) to edge the set and move within one set of victory.
It felt like the crystallising moment in the contest, but that did not necessarily prove so - even after Haas was broken to love in his second service game of the third set. That was because Djokovic was then broken himself for the first time in the contest straight after, and the scenario then repeated itself later in the set.
Djokovic had broken for 5-4 to give himself a chance to serve for the contest - but Haas responded in kind to create a real prospect of a fourth set, and maybe even a fifth, being required.
But Djokovic dug deep and would not be denied, breaking Haas once again after an arduous service game that went to numerous deuces. This time it would stick, as Djokovic booked the meeting with Nadal that always appeared likely as soon as the draw was made.
A few hundred metres away on Chatrier, Nadal enjoyed an even more stress-free afternoon, breaking Wawrinka at the very first opportunity and never really looking back.
Nadal was imperious at times as Wawrinka struggled to keep up; with the Swiss showing his frustration at 5-2 in the first as he smashed his racquet after missing a cross-court winner - an indication of how scarce he was finding point-winning opportunities.
Nadal took the opening set 6-2 and then immediately found another early break of serve in the second set, as Wawrinka made life harder for himself. But the Swiss steeled himself and suddenly found himself able to capitalise as his opponent's standards slipped an inch; creating two break points at 3-1 to offer himself a way back into the contest. Other than a narrowly-missed forehand crosscourt winner (a high-risk, high-reward shot he perhaps had to go for), however, Wawrinka did not get the chance to clinch the break - as Nadal rediscovered his rhythm just in time to retain his advantage.
That was the end of Wawrinka's luck in that set, as Nadal duly clinched the frame to move inexorably towards yet another Roland Garros win.
The Swiss has always had a tendency towards the flaky when against the wall and so it proved once again, as Nadal romped through the third set with little resistance - booking his place in the semi-finals minutes before Djokovic would do the same.