Djokovic paces ATP elites into all-star Madrid semi-final round

Novak Djokovic beat Milos Raonic for the seventh time at the Madrid Masters on a rainy Friday dominated by elite players in one of the last major tuneups before the start of the French Open.

Top seed Djokovic put out the Canadian 6-3, 6-4 in their quarter-final under the closed roof of the Caja Magica.

Djokovic kept his slate clean as he moved into the final four without the loss of a set, winning 13th straight match against a top 10 opponent. He still needed four match points to go through, helped by 34 Raonic unforced errors.

The Serb has never won the French Open and is hoping for a successful buildup this weekend and next week in Rome prior to the Paris start on May 22.

He will join Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori, who also made it to the semi-final round in Madrid.

"It was a long match that could have gone in a different direction," Djokovic said. "That's  what happens when you play Milos and his huge serve.

"He keeps you under constant pressure, it's always tough to play him but I enjoyed it."

Djokovic on Saturday will face Nishikori, who continued his success in Spain as the two-time Barcelona champion reached his third consecutive Madrid semi 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 over Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Nadal and Murray will meet in a re-run of the 2015 final.

Defending champion and second seed Murray scored a breakthrough against Tomas Berdych, advancing 6-3, 6-2 after losing three times to the Czech on clay.

Four-time champion Nadal, losing finalist a year ago to Murray, had to struggle in the second set before overcoming Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-0, 4-6, 6-3, in just over two hours.

Nadal fidgeted and moaned about a 10-minute delay as the roof closed during the sixth game of the second set as light rain returned.

Spain's king of clay lost his first set of the week against Sousa but recovered in the third to take his place in the last four. The win continued hard luck for the challenger, who stands 1-22 against the elite with a 20-match losing streak against top 10 opponents.

"This year is completely different to the previous years - I have different feelings," Nadal said. "I don't know what can happen tomorrow. Every day is a different day and a different match."

He said that it would be "a very tough match" facing Murray, who has played well all week.

"I have to give my best if I want to have options, and that's what I am going to do. I'm going to try," Nadal said. "I cannot think of last year. It was a completely different year. Of course I hope that I don't repeat what happened last year. Everything is possible. Anything can happen."

In the women's draw, Dominika Cibulkova turned 27 as she reached the final, beating 19-year-old US qualifier Louisa Chirico 6-1, 6-1; she will aim for the title against sixth seed Simona Halep, who crushed Australian Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-0.

Cibulkova will be playing her third final of the season, standing 1-1.

"I'm always more emotional when I win - it's part of me," she said.

"I'm really, really happy, today's match was not easy. I made it look easy. I was playing just really well. I was dominating on the court, and I was mentally very strong. It was just a really, really good match from my side."

Halep last won a trophy 14 months ago in Californaia and has lost three of four matches to Cibulkova. She said it was her dream to win in Madrid.

"I expect a tough match because the final is always difficult," the Romanian said. "But I have experience. I feel ready to play."

Last update: Sat, 07/05/2016 - 13:12

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