Novak Djokovic's remarkable run continued on Friday as he entered the final of the ATP's Miami Masters, where he will face World No. 1 Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic reached his fourth final in as many tournaments this year with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Mardy Fish.
Nadal, meanwhile, notched up a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory over 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, now ranked third in the world.
Nadal, who is seeking his first Miami title, was rarely troubled on his serve and broke the uncharacteristically error-prone Federer four times.
Djokovic stretched his 2011 winning streak to 23 straight matches and will have a chance to add the Miami crown to the Australian Open, Dubai and Indian Wells Masters 1000 titles captured already this year.
He defeated Nadal in the Indian Wells final less than a fortnight ago, and with his triumph in the California desert, overtook Federer for No. 2 in the world rankings.
In 30 years, only two players have made a better start to a season: American John McEnroe with 39 victories in 1984 and former Czechoslovakian Ivan Lendl with 25 in 1986.
“I don't feel invincible,” Djokovic said. “I don't feel that I can't lose on the court. What I feel is big confidence. What I feel is that I'm playing best tennis of my life.”
Despite his dominant form and his recent victory over Nadal, Djokovic claimed the role of underdog in the looming final.
“I obviously wouldn't feel like a favourite,” he said. “For me to win, I will be have to be on the top of my game.”
Fish, who will overtake Andy Roddick as the top-ranked American next week, had Djokovic on the defensive early, but couldn't convert two break points.
Then came a rain delay of nearly an hour, time that Djokovic used to regroup.
“I told Mardy at the end I got saved by the rain,” Djokovic said.
“It really seemed like that. After I went back to the locker room I had 45 minutes to get it together and I felt much better after I came back to the court.”
They resumed with the set level at 2-2, Djokovic serving. He saved a break point, then held with an ace.
The real turning point came at 5-3, as Djokovic served for the set. Fish gave himself a double break point, but couldn't capitalise on either, surrendering the set with a backhand into the net.
“Those were huge points,” Fish said. “It was extremely disappointing. I thought I played well... I left a lot of shots out there today. That's what's disappointing.”
Djokovic opened the second set by breaking the American, and cruised home, wrapping it up with a forehand winner.
In all, Djokovic saved six break points and has yet to be broken in 40 service games here.
“It's his playground right now, I guess,” Fish said.
While the Nadal versus Federer clash — their first on a US court since 2005 — generated the buzz of a final, even the fans' encouraging chants couldn't lift Federer.
In the first set he made no inroads, as Nadal, displaying fierce groundstrokes, dropped just two points on his own serve.
The Swiss, who delivered 31 unforced errors, went down early breaks in both sets, and was broken in the concluding game of each.
“I was down right away. From then it was an uphill battle,” Federer said.
“When I did have chances I played poorly and he came up with some good stuff. Off night for me, unfortunately.”
Nadal said his first-set performance was key.
“I think I played a very, very good match, very solid and serious,” Nadal said. “First set, especially, I think I played very, very good.
“Second set I think he played worse,” Nadal added. “He had more mistakes than usual. He tried to play shorter points, so I think second set he didn't play well.”
Men: Semifinals: Novak Djokovic bt Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-1; Rafael Nadal bt Roger Federer 6-3, 6-2. — Agencies