Shanghai: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer set up a rematch of their Wimbledon final with convincing straight-set wins to reach the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters on Friday.
The top-ranked Djokovic defeated David Ferrer 6-4, 6-2 to extend his winning streak in China to 28 matches, while Federer played a nearly flawless second set to beat Julien Benneteau of France 7-6 (4), 6-0.
It will be the 36th meeting in their rivalry, which has been remarkably close over the years, with Federer taking 18 of their matches and Djokovic 17. The players have split their four matches this year, though Djokovic got the far biggest prize with his second Wimbledon trophy in July.
"There is no clear favorite," Djokovic said. "Every time we play against each other, it's a thriller."
The Serb would seem to have a slight advantage given his recent dominance in China, where he hasn't lost since a semifinal defeat to Federer in Shanghai in 2010. Since then, he's captured the China Open three times, and the Shanghai Masters twice.
But Djokovic doesn't believe the court - or his sizeable contingent of Serbian-flag-waving Chinese fans - will give him an edge.
"Well, it's not like he didn't have a lot of success anywhere he went, including China," he said. "He knows how to play here. He has also big support."
Djokovic played much better on Friday than he did in the previous round, when he struggled to put away big-hitting Mikhail Kukushkin.
He was tested just once against the fifth-seeded Ferrer, while serving for the first set at 5-4. The Spaniard played remarkable defense to fight off three set points, then held two break points for 5-all. He failed to convert either, though, and Djokovic finally ended the tiring, 13-minute game with a drop shot followed by a volley into the open court.
Federer, too, played his most solid match of the week against Benneteau. He had 34 winners to only 13 unforced errors, and won nearly all of the points on his first serve (34 of 37).
The Swiss star, who will overtake Rafael Nadal to return to No. 2 in the rankings next week, is looking for his first Shanghai title.
The other semifinal will feature two veterans playing some of their best tennis - Gilles Simon and Feliciano Lopez.
Lopez, who knocked out an ailing Rafael Nadal in the second round, defeated Mikhail Youzhny 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
At 33, the Spaniard is having a resurgent year, winning his fourth career title at Eastbourne and rising to No. 16 in the rankings, one off his career high.
He's also a three-time semifinalist in Shanghai. "This (tournament) is always great," he said. "I've always played some of my best tennis."
Simon upset sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-0. It was his second top-10 win of the week after beating fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka in the second round.
Asked the last time he managed to do that, he said, "I don't know. You tell me. Maybe never."
Lopez has won two of their three previous meetings, though both matches were on grass....