- Novak Djokovic - Rafael Nadal - tennis
Nadal cruises into semi-final, Djokovic crashes out
Former world number one Rafael Nadal easily defeated in 1h30 Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka and qualified for the Rome Masters semi-finals. Serbia's Novak Djokovic lost against another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco.
AFP - Rafael Nadal led a three-pronged Spanish assault on the Rome Masters on Friday at the Foro Italico and will tackle Ernests Gulbis, the conqueror of Roger Federer, in the semi-finals.
Nadal dominated Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-1 as three Spaniards qualified for the last four.
Sixth seed Fernando Verdasco stunned world number two Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-4 in a marathon 3hr 18min quarter-final while 13th seed David Ferrer, who put out fourth seed Andy Murray in the previous round, downed seventh seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-1.
But Latvia's Gulbis prevented a Spanish cleansweep when he defeated Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 in his quarter-final.
Wawrinka put up early resistance against Nadal but from 4-4 in the first set he won only one more game.
"My feeling wasn't so good in the beginning but at 5-4 I started moving him," said Nadal.
"In the beginning I was hitting every ball further and further behind the baseline but in the second set I was hitting every ball more and more inside the court."
Nadal, who is aiming for his fifth title here in six seasons, remains unbeaten on clay this season.
Earlier, Djokovic paid tribute to Verdasco's ability to turn defence into attack.
"He has always been very strong and now he makes fewer mistakes and his forehand is much more consistent now so he's very dangerous," said Djokovic.
"His forehand is his weapon and he uses it really, really well. He makes the transition from being defensive to being offensive very quickly."
The 22-year-old Djokovic felt he was very close to coming out on top.
"I played well. Obviously I'm very disappointed to lose the match. I was very close to victory and I know that this match could have gone either way," he added.
"Only a couple of points decided the winner. But he won because he played well and he deserved to win."
The 26-year-old Verdasco will face compatriot Ferrer next.
The statistics told the whole story of Ferrer's defeat of Tsonga, who made 29 unforced errors compared to just nine by the clay specialist, who has won more matches than anyone else this season.
Verdasco, the winner in Barcelona last week and beaten finalist against Nadal in Monte Carlo the week before, acknowledged his next match will be close.
"He's a very tough player, when you look at his results this year on clay you can see he's one of the best players," he said.