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Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Saturday, 2 May 2009 17:37 UK

Djokovic battles to Federer win

Novak Djokovic
Djokovic remains on course to defend his title

Reigning champion Novak Djokovic battled back from a set down to beat world number two Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Rome Masters.

The Serb won 4-6 6-3 6-3 at the Foro Italico after recovering from a break down in both the second and third sets.

Djokovic needs to retain his title or he will lose his world number three ranking to Britain's Andy Murray.

World number one Rafael Nadal eased into Sunday's final with a 6-3 6-3 win over Chile's Fernando Gonzalez.

Federer and Djokovic pair had met 10 times previously, with Federer holding a 7-3 lead and having won both their matches on clay.

Djokovic has been in far better form recently, however, reaching the final in Monte Carlo and powering through the field in Rome.

But it was Federer who controlled matters at the outset, earning three break points in the opening three Djokovic service games before finally breaking through in game nine.

606: DEBATE

The 13-time Grand Slam champion served out the set confidently, broke at the start of the second and missed a break point for a double-break in game three before a rain shower interrupted play.

When play resumed in bright sunshine, Federer earned another break point at 3-1 but let it slip away and then saw a rejuvenated Djokovic reel off five straight games to level.

Federer has struggled in final sets this year but it was Djokovic who faltered first, playing an edgy game to slip a break down at 3-1, before the Serb broke back immediately to love.

A desperately tense set turned in Djokovic's favour at 3-3, with a poor Federer volley and a weak backhand slice leading to the Swiss star's downfall.

The momentum was finally with Djokovic and, in a repeat of the previous set, five straight games sealed it for the champion.

Rafael Nadal
Nadal made short work of Gonzalez, winning in an hour and 15 minutes

Nadal looked in ominous form as he hammered Gonzalez, and Djokovic admitted beating him in the final will be a tall order.

"There's not much to say about Rafa on clay," said the Serb, who needs to defend his title to prevent Andy Murray overtaking him in the rankings.

"He is the absolute favourite to win. I won a set against him in Monte Carlo and learned that I have to play every point against him and wait to get chances."

Nadal vowed he would not be complacent against Djokovic despite his 12-4 head-to-head record.

"He's going to play aggressively, I think, because that's his game. I have to play aggressively with my forehand and try to have control of the points," he said.

"If I don't do that it's going to be really difficult because if he is attacking it is really tough to play against Novak."



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see also
Djokovic sets up Federer meeting
01 May 09 |  Tennis
Federer avenges loss to Stepanek
30 Apr 09 |  Tennis
Murray suffers shock Rome defeat
29 Apr 09 |  Tennis
Murray v Monaco as it happened
29 Apr 09 |  Tennis
Murray thwarted by rain in Rome
28 Apr 09 |  Tennis
Murray to take on Monaco in Rome
27 Apr 09 |  Tennis
Nadal seals fifth Monte Carlo win
19 Apr 09 |  Tennis
Murray battles through in Miami
28 Mar 09 |  Tennis
Djokovic defeats Wawrinka in Rome
11 May 08 |  Tennis
Nadal falls to shock loss on clay
07 May 08 |  Tennis


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