Federer and Djokovic to meet at Rome Masters

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic posted straight-set wins on Friday to set up a meeting in the Rome Masters semi-finals.

updated: May 01, 2009 14:41 IST
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Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic posted straight-set wins on Friday to set up a meeting in the Rome Masters semi-finals.

Federer overcame a first-set challenge from the net-charging German qualifier Mischa Zverev, advancing 7-6 (3), 6-2; and Djokovic stayed on course to defend his title in this clay-court warmup for the French Open with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro.

The fast clay at the Foro Italico suits both Federer and Djokovic.

"I think both of us like it, so it's going to be interesting," Djokovic said. "I feel quite confident playing here. Each match I play, I feel more comfortable moving on the court and just playing my style of the game."

Federer has won seven of his 10 previous matches against Djokovic, but the Serb took the last meeting at the Masters Series event in Key Biscayne, Florida, a month ago.

In the other half of the draw, three-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal faced eighth-seeded Fernando Verdasco for the first time since Nadal's epic five-set win in a match between the pair at the Australian Open. Also, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez was up against Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco.

The 76th-ranked Zverev beat former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in qualifying and upset No. 8 Gilles Simon in his previous match. Using an effective serve-and-volley tactic, he didn't allow Federer to see a break point until the 10th game of the first set, saving two set points to get to 5-5.

But Federer found his range in the tiebreaker, passing Zverev several times, and the 13-time Grand Slam winner ran away with the match in the second set.

A two-time runner-up in Rome, Federer is still seeking his first title of the year.

Zverev lives in Hamburg and is coached by his father Alexander, who played Davis Cup tennis for the former Soviet Union from 1982-87. This was his first Masters Series quarterfinal.

Djokovic took control early in each set and closed out his match with Del Potro in a tidy 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing in sunny conditions with no wind, the third-seeded Djokovic was able to dictate play with well-angled winners from the baseline. Del Potro, meanwhile, had trouble with his forehand, hitting the advertising banners lining the back of the court in one instance.

"I tried to change the pace a lot," Djokovic said. "Because I know that Del Potro likes more or less same pace, and he's moving really well for his height."

Djokovic had a 20-8 edge in winners while Del Potro committed 20 unforced errors with his forehand to only eight with his backhand.

Djokovic improved to 4-5 vs. opponents in the top 10 this year. The Serb needs to defend his title to prevent Andy Murray from taking the No. 3 ranking from him, even though Murray was eliminated by Monaco on Wednesday.

Djokovic is the only player to take a set from Nadal on clay this year, losing to the Spaniard in the Monte Carlo Masters final two weeks ago.

Del Potro, who helped Argentina reach the Davis Cup final last year, has never reached a Masters Series semifinal on clay and dropped to 0-3 in his career against Djokovic.