Djokovic, Del Potro set up showdown in Shanghai

AFP and Reuters, SHANGHAI

Sun, Oct 13, 2013 - Page 18

Defending champion Novak Djokovic swept aside Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 7-5 yesterday in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Open at the Qizhong Tennis Center.

The powerful Tsonga came into match with a miserable run of eight consecutive defeats against the top seed, but had not dropped a set all week.

However, he landed just 46 percent of first serves in an ultimately one-sided first set, and despite a better performance in the second he cracked in the 12th game as Djokovic completed a straight-sets win.

“It’s important for me to get into another final,” Djokovic said, who lost his cool midway through the second set over a couple of line calls before he found his focus again.

“[My serve] was very controlled, very efficient... I was trying to open up the court and move him around. I know he likes to have targets, he likes to play from the backhand corners so I tried not to let him into that comfort zone,” Djokovic said.

Tsonga made the worst possible start in windy conditions as Djokovic threatened to run away with the match.

The Serbian, 26, broke to love in the second game, helped by two double faults, and had a break point to establish a 4-0 lead as Tsonga struggled to gain a foothold.

The seventh seed dug deep, securing a break of his own to peg Djokovic back to 3-2, but his form then dipped again and he lost the next three games.

A more balanced second set involving a break apiece looked to be heading towards a tie-break, but the Serb secured a decisive break in the 12th game, claiming victory on his second match point.

Meanwhile Rafa Nadal failed to reach a final for only the second time during an incredible season after being blown off court 6-2, 6-4 by Argentine whirlwind Juan Martin del Potro yesterday.

The Spaniard had been hoping to celebrate his return to the top of the world rankings this week by setting up a final showdown for the second time in as many weeks with chief rival Djokovic.

However, Nadal found himself outpaced after a breathtaking semi-final display of power and touch by the 2009 US Open champion.

Del Potro barely allowed Nadal, winner of 10 titles this year, a chance as he raced into a 4-0 lead in the first set before bagging it with a scorching ace.

Nadal thought he had broken for the first time to level at 2-2 in the second, but Hawkeye disagreed and from then on the world’s best player was chasing shadows as Del Potro produced one of the best performances of his career.

The Spaniard fired a service return long on match point to hand a jubilant Del Potro his first win over Nadal since 2009.