Former world No. 1 Roger Federer looked like his old self when he beat Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 at the Paris Masters on Friday to set up a semi-final clash with Novak Djokovic.
Top seed Rafael Nadal destroyed local favorite Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-1 as he stepped up his bid for a record sixth Masters Series crown in the same season.
The Spaniard, who is chasing his 11th title of the year and is the only player left in the tournament not to have already won the indoor event, next faces compatriot and title holder David Ferrer.
Third seed Ferrer, beaten in the French Open final the last time he played against Nadal, defeated 2005 champion Tomas Berdych 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Federer, who had lost his last three encounters with the towering Del Potro, including the Basel Open final on Sunday, defeated a top-10 player for the first time since January and will now feature in his second Masters Series semi-final of the year.
Djokovic hammered Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4.
Federer has a 16-13 record against the Serb who won their last meeting in London a year ago.
“Roger is probably experiencing the worst season he’s had in the last 10 years but he’s still a player to beat in every tournament because he’s Roger Federer, because he’s won 17 Grand Slams,” Djokovic told a news conference.
“You can’t underestimate him although maybe he’s not at the form where he was when he was No. 1 in the world. But I watched his matches in Basel last week and here too and I think he’s playing really well,” he said.
Federer showed his class in the first set of the quarter-final against Del Potro, clubbing 17 winners.
The Swiss was less sharp in the middle set and Del Potro forced Federer into a decider.
Cheered on by a packed crowd, 2011 champion Federer then started to play more aggressively and broke serve in the seventh game.
“I think I did well to start stronger in the third set,” he said. “That was something I couldn’t quite do in Basel.”
“Overall I was just hitting a better ball today and moving well and making good decisions time and time again. I was very happy with my level of play,” Federer said.
Djokovic, the 2009 champion, sprinted into a 3-0 lead against Wawrinka.
He never loosened his grip and left the seventh-seeded Swiss with the feeling he had little chance of victory.
Ninth seed Gasquet tried to control the net as often as possible to compensate for his lack of power, but made too many mistakes and easily surrendered despite the home crowd’s support.
TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Australia’s Samantha Stosur reached the WTA Tournament of Champions semi-finals on Friday with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Bulgarian wild-card Tsvetana Pironkova.
Stosur was due to face Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a place in the final while yesterday’s other semi-final was set to feature former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic against Romanian Simona Halep.
Ivanovic, the world No. 16, made it to the last four despite losing her last group match 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/1) to Russia’s Elena Vesnina.
Halep made the semi-finals by winning all of her three group matches without conceding a set.