SHANGHAI (AP) — Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic overcame tough challenges in their quarterfinals at the Shanghai Masters on Friday and moved a step closer to a possible showdown in the final.
Top-ranked Nadal saved three set points and finally closed out a 20-minute tiebreak in the first set against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka before winning 7-6 (10), 6-1.
"Match in general, first set especially, was very, very hard one," Nadal said. "Positive thing, when he was playing well, I was playing well, too. I was able to resist. If I was not playing well, I was going to lose that set."
Djokovic, the defending champion, needed nearly 2 ½ hours to rally past France's Gael Monfils 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4.
Djokovic and Nadal improved to a combined 20-0 record against the pair.
Their semifinal opponents had much easier matches. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-3, and Juan Martin del Potro advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Nicolas Almagro.
Tsonga next plays Djokovic, while del Potro meets Nadal.
If Djokovic and Nadal do meet in the final, it would be their 39th professional matchup — and second in as many weeks. Djokovic defeated Nadal last Sunday in the China Open final in Beijing after the Spaniard was assured of retaking the No. 1 ranking from him.
Nadal had a lengthy first set against Wawrinka — a player who had never taken a set off him in 10 matches.
After fending off three set points by Wawrinka, the Spaniard hit a cleverly disguised drop shot from the baseline to go up 11-10 in the tiebreak and finally managed to win it on his fourth set point with a forehand winner.
Djokovic looked out of sorts against Monfils. The Serb hadn't been broken in his two previous matches in Shanghai, but he dropped serve twice in the first three games.
"Inexplicably, I started serving quite bad, but not many unforced errors," he said. "It's just sometimes that you start off slowly and you're not feeling the ball as much."
Monfils played remarkable defense in the first set, sliding and stretching for every ball and forcing errors. At one point, Djokovic was so frustrated, he clenched his fists and let out a full-throttle scream.
"Today was a very physical match and very intense," he said. "I knew coming into the match that he's going to run for every ball and he's going to make me play an extra shot. Sometimes I was even surprised with the balls that he's getting back."
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