King of clay Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the only man to beat him on European dirt this spring, set up a high-profile semi-final at the French Open with convincing straight-sets wins on Wednesday.
Top seed Djokovic, who stunned the Spaniard for the Monte Carlo title six weeks ago, overcame niggles at the end before finally beating Tommy Haas 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, with the German breaking as Djokovic served for the match leading 5-4 in the third set.
Nadal moved closer to a possible eighth title at Roland Garros from the past nine editions with his defeat of Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, the 10th loss in the series for the Swiss.
The win came in the wake of Wawrinka’s dramatic comeback from two sets to love down in the previous round over Richard Gasquet.
“Today I played my best match of the tournament,” said Nadal, who first won Paris in 2005. “Stan was maybe a bit tired from his previous, incredible win. For me, that was the match of the tournament.
“But I’m happy how I played today for sure. I didn’t have the greatest first week, but my last two matches have been much more positive. I played at a good level today.” Djokovic put down his closing hiccup to superior play from Haas, who is living through a renaissance in his game at age 35. After losing serve while trying to wrap up the win, the Serb who has never won the Paris title finally prevailed 7-5 in the third.
“I knew Tommy could be a danger, he has a lot of quality and experience,” said Djokovic, 36-8 at the event. “He plays very aggressive. I’m just glad to be in the semis. I played well in the important moments, but I have to play better in the next round.
“I hope to lift my game against Nadal.” Djokovic said his Monte Carlo title success will give him confidence going into his Friday showdown. “Nadal is so strong in Paris. It will be tough but I’m in a good position now with my tennis, I’m ready to go five sets.”