World No. 2 Rafael Nadal dismissed Novak Djokovic in straight sets to move to the brink of the Masters Cup semi-finals on yesterday.
The Spaniard was rarely tested by the disappointing Serb, who had already been eliminated, winning 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 44 minutes.
Nadal has won two and lost one of his round-robin matches and is on the verge of a place in the last four ahead of David Ferrer's meeting with Richard Gasquet.
Nadal is definitely through to the semis unless Gasquet wins in three sets, when the top two places in Gold Group will be decided on games won.
Nadal started strongly, whipping backhand and forehand winners past Djokovic as he went 4-1 up without dropping a point on serve.
Djokovic finally showed signs of life in the sixth game, flashing a pair of deep winners before getting a lucky break on a let cord.
The Serb, serving at 5-3 down, saved the first set point with an instinctive behind-the-back pick-up but went long in the next game to put the Spaniard ahead.
Nadal broke for 2-1 in the second and was cruising to victory until facing two break points in the eighth, pumping his fists in delight as he escaped by cutting out Djokovic's pass with a backhand volley.
Serving at 5-4, the pumped-up Spaniard converted the first of two match points with a forehand down the line, raising his arms in celebration.
Nadal won his opener against Gasquet but then fell to a shock defeat against compatriot Ferrer, one of a series of surprises in the US$4.45 million tournament featuring the world's top eight players.
Top-ranked Roger Federer lost his first round robin match in six visits to the season finale and Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko, the world No. 3 and No. 4, have also been beaten by lower-ranked opposition.
Nadal was beaten in the semi-finals by Federer last year after pulling out injured in 2005. Djokovic, Ferrer and Gasquet are appearing at the tournament for the first time.
Djokovic, 20, has been the tournament's biggest disappointment, going down three times in straight sets despite a breakthrough year in which he has won five titles and reached his first Grand Slam final.