Novak Djokovic stayed on course for a potential blockbuster Shanghai Masters title match against Rafael Nadal yesterday, surviving a withering assault from Frenchman Gael Monfils to win his quarter-final 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-4.
Elsewhere in last-eight action, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro breezed through their matches in straight sets as they hunt berths at next month’s elite World Tour Finals.
In a first set full of brutal baseline tennis, Monfils and Djokovic swapped two service breaks each before the match settled into a more regular groove, going to a tie-break won by the Frenchman.
However, Monfils let his intensity slip at the start of the second set and Djokovic immediately seized the initiative with a break.
A time violation against Monfils rattled the Frenchman, who became embroiled in an argument with the umpire and was soon receiving treatment on his stomach as the set slipped away from him.
Monfils, who conquered Roger Federer in the previous round, re-discovered his mojo at the start of the decider, rattling Djokovic, who hurled his racket in disgust after one mistake.
However, it was the Serb who made the crucial break, in the seventh game, letting out of roar of triumph before going on to seal the match.
Earlier Del Potro eased into the semi-finals, firing 27 winners in a 6-3, 6-3 win against Nicolas Almagro, the Spanish 15th seed.
The Argentine sixth seed, fresh from winning the Japan Open, stamped his authority on the match with an early break and sealed the first set with another, while a single break in the second set proved decisive.
He will next face either Nadal or Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, who faced off in yesterday’s late match, and is just one win away from qualifying for next month’s World Tour Finals in London.
“I played very well today, very solid,” said Del Potro, who has overcome a fever in Shanghai. “I played aggressive. I hit my forehand very well. I like the way I played today. I just want to keep improving and keep going far in this tournament.”
Del Potro, 25, is wary of a possible match-up with the Spanish world No. 1, describing him as “unbeatable.”
“You have to have a perfect day with Rafa. We’ll see how it’s going,” he said.
Seventh seed Tsonga was equally impressive in securing a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 victory against 50th-ranked Florian Mayer of Germany in just 64 minutes.
Tsonga, who landed just 54 percent of his first serves, but saved all four break points he faced, admitted he was not quite 100 percent fit after knee problems.
However, he believes he will have a fighting chance against the top seed even though he has lost his past six matches against the Serb.
“He was the No. 1 for many, many weeks, and he was playing well, he was confident,” Tsonga said. “I think he lost more matches this year than the other years, so maybe it’s an opportunity for me.”