Rome Masters: Djokovic ousts Nadal, Murray beats Goffin

Britain’s Andy Murray remained on course for a maiden Rome Masters final after overcoming Belgium’s David Goffin 6-1, 7-5 on Friday to book only his second career semifinal in the Italian capital.

Novak Djokovic - cropped

Novak Djokovic celebrates winning a key point against Rafael Nadal.

Murray will now be expected to book his first final in Rome.   -  REUTERS

Novak Djokovic landed another major psychological blow over a rival ahead of the French Open, edging two gripping sets against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Internazionali d'Italia.

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Five days on from maintaining his dominant recent record against Andy Murray with a hard-fought victory in the final of the Madrid Open, Djokovic arguably stood up to an even sterner test as he recorded a seventh consecutive triumph against Nadal.

Djokovic has now won 15 sets in succession against the Spaniard, but his latest success was certainly no walk in the park as Nadal produced a fine performance of his own before going down 7-5 7-6 (7-4).

The two dominant forces in this event - reigning champion Djokovic and Nadal have shared the last 11 titles in Rome - served up a thrilling encounter on Friday, with both men operating at a high level throughout.

Nadal started the brighter and broke for a 3-2 lead when his opponent carelessly netted a forehand.

Djokovic exhibited clear frustration in his next service game, a mammoth 11-minute affair, pushing the arm of umpire Carlos Bernardes as the official investigated the mark left by a Nadal passing shot before ruling in the fifth seed's favour.

However, Djokovic soon had reason for cheer as he followed up a hard-fought hold by getting back on level terms and then moved 5-4 ahead with a sensational backhand winner, prompting gasps from an enthralled crowd.

That shot was celebrated enthusiastically by the world number one, but he was even more animated - with good reason -  after clinching the opener in stunning style by demonstrating outstanding reflexes and agility at the net to accept his fourth set point in a game riddled with errors from Nadal.

To his credit, Nadal responded superbly, breaking at the start of set two and initially staying in front despite receiving treatment on an apparent problem with his left foot during a changeover.

However, with a decider looming, the Spaniard spurned five set points in the 10th game and was ruthlessly punished as Djokovic forced a forehand error and drew level at 5-5.

Djokovic duly fought back from 0-30 in the next game to hold, another brilliant backhand winner epitomising his ability to save his best for the biggest points. And fittingly, it was another stroke from that wing that wrapped up the subsequent tie-break.

Murray too good for Goffin in Rome

Andy Murray took a step closer to reaching the final for the first time by seeing off David Goffin 6-1 7-5 in Friday's last-eight contest.

Goffin headed into the quarterfinal having shocked Tomas Berdych in a 6-0, 6-0 whitewash in Rome on Thursday, but Murray proved too big of a challenge in the Eternal City.

The second seed, who also beat Goffin on clay in Great Britain's Davis Cup final victory over Belgium last year, followed a similar pattern to his win over Jeremy Chardy by racing through the first set and toughing it out in the second.

There were seven breaks of serve in total in the second, but Murray was always a class above and the Briton deservedly earned a last-four showdown with Lucas Pouille.

Goffin came out firing and some aggressive groundstrokes helped break Murray in the first game.

However, that only appeared to rile Murray who immediately levelled thanks to a couple of stunning backhands and he mixed his game up with a deft drop-shot to make it a double-break 4-1 lead.

Murray won 12 straight points to take complete control and the errors crept into Goffin's game, including a backhand into the net that gifted Murray a 5-1 lead before he duly served out the opener. 

The second set was a more back-and-forth affair, with a sloppy Murray handing Goffin a 3-1 lead only to reel off three straight games to have a break lead at 4-3.

Once again Goffin hit back to level, but the Belgian's error count was rising and when he was broken for a sixth time in the match with a poorly executed drop-shot, Murray had the chance to serve for the match.

There was no end to the series of breaks, though, as Goffin tied it up again, but the Belgian's troubles on serve continued and Murray broke again in a lengthy game 11 to earn a second opportunity to serve it out.

And this time Murray got the job done, a long return from Goffin ending his resistance.

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