Nadal knocks out Djokovic

Rafael Nadal en route to his win against Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal closed in on an eighth Rome Masters title as he dismissed old rival Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 on Saturday to reach the final for a record-extending 10th time.

Nadal, still unbeaten in semifinals at the Foro Italico, unleashed a trademark clay-court attack after winning a tight first set lasting well over an hour.

“I need to be able to play my best tomorrow,” Nadal said of a Sunday final against either defending champion Alexander Zverev or Croatian Marin Cilic.

“I’m very happy with my game. It all worked for me, the tactics, the shots.”

The 31-year-old world number two cut the deficit in his head-to-head series with Djokovic to 26-25, after their 51st meeting since first facing off in 2006.

But the Serb complained afterwards about poor scheduling which affected his preparation, playing a late-afternoon quarterfinal on Friday before returning to court on Saturday mid-afternoon.

“I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining about losing the match because of the schedule. But having to end at night and coming back to play early in the day affects a lot,” he said.

“Nobody has ever, ever reached me in my entire career to ask me about what I think would be the best scheduling. I don’t think that is fair, we will address it in the next players’ council.”

Djokovic has rediscovered his form this week after months of elbow injury problems, including an operation earlier this year.

Nadal now stands 10-8 over Djokovic in semifinals, with the pair having played each other at all four Grand Slam tournaments, the ATP Finals, Davis Cup, the Olympic Games along with eight of the nine Masters 1000 events.

Easy for Svitolina

In the women’s semifinal, holder Elina Svitolina dominated Anett Kontaveit 6-4, 6-3 in 74 minutes to reach a second straight final.

The Ukrainian will meet Simona Halep in the final. Halep defeated Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the other semifinal.

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Nadal knocks out Djokovic

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