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Nadal, Djokovic set for semi-final faceoff

Latest update : 2009-05-25

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two Roland Garros favorites, will meet in the highly anticipated semi-finals. The Spanish player easily defeated Nicolas Almagro, while the Serbian won against Latvian Ernests Gulbis.

AFP - Triple champion Rafael Nadal celebrated his 22nd birthday in devastating style when he crushed hapless compatriot Nicolas Almagro to set-up a French Open semi-final blockbuster against Novak Djokovic.

Nadal swamped Almagro 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to move two wins closer to joining Bjorn Borg as the only man to win four successive Roland Garros titles.

Third seed Djokovic saw off childhood friend Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 7-5, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 to reach a fifth consecutive Grand Slam semi-final.

Tuesday's win was Nadal's 26th in 26 career matches at Roland Garros.

He has yet yet to drop a set in the tournament and has been taken past six games only once - in the first set of his opening tie against Nicolas Devilder.

In five matches played he has dropped just 25 games and average of five per tie.

"I had expected a tougher match than that to be honest," he said of his 19th seeded opponent, an assured claycourt competitor.

"I still hope to play better in the next round against Djokovic. It will likely be harder."

Australian Open champion Djokovic and Gulbis first trained together as youngsters at the Munich academy owned by former Germany and Croatia Davis Cup coach Niki Pilic and have been firm friends ever since.

With a little more composure, 19-year-old Gulbis, bidding to become the first Latvian to reach a Grand Slam semi-final, could have pulled off a famous win, but his 60 unforced errors and seven double faults told a sorry story.

"We know each other well from being at the same academy and have been friends for a long time," said Djokovic who was beaten by Nadal in the semi-final in 2007.

"He's had a great tournament and I'm happy to see him doing so well."

World number 80 Gulbis saw his serve come under siege in the first set where he saved eight break points.

He fought off three set points in the 12th game but his resolve finally cracked under the Djokovic assault.

Gulbis broke for a 1-0 lead in the second set but the Serbian world number three levelled at 4-4 before running away with the tie-break which was played in pouring rain.

Gulbis's error-strewn afternoon continued when a simple forehand was buried into the Suzanne Lenglen Court net allowing Djokovic to nip ahead 3-2 in the third set.

The teenager held on grimly, changing his racquet twice as he desperately sought a way back.

Djokovic served for the match at 5-4 but his opponent broke back to level at 5-5 only to return the advantage in the next game.

The Serbian, who could take Nadal's world number two ranking if he wins on Friday, wrapped up the quarter-final when Gulbis only laid half a racquet on a deep service.

The remaining quarter-finals take place on Wednesday with top seed Roger Federer facing Chile's Fernando Gonzalez and Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer tackling the sole remaining French hope Gael Monfils.

Date created : 2008-06-03

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