Djokovic sets up Nadal semi-final clash in Rome

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Rome (AFP)

Novak Djokovic defeated Kei Nishikori 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the Italian Open semi-finals on Friday where he will face old rival Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic will meet Nadal for the 51st time with the Serb holding a 26-24 edge in career meetings with the pair locked at 3-3 in Rome.

Nadal won their last encounter, snapping a seven-match losing streak against the Serb to reach the 2017 Madrid Masters final.

Djokovic, a four-time Rome champion, last reached a semi-final in Eastbourne on the eve of Wimbledon last year before his career went into a tailspin following an elbow injury.

"It's a great challenge to face Nadal but it's one that I will embrace," said Djokovic after his 2-hour and 21-minute win over Nishikori.

"This is what I work for, to be in the later stages of tournaments. It's been a year since I made a semi-final. I will have to play my best tennis to win on Saturday."