Nadal clings on to No 1
Rome - Rafael Nadal showed no signs of the fever that has been troubling him this week as he strolled into the Rome Masters semi-finals with a 6-1, 6-3 demolition of Marin Cilic on Friday.
World number two Novak Djokovic beat fifth seed Robin Soderling 6-3, 6-0 to maintain his undefeated start to the year while Andy Murray became the first British man to reach the Rome semis in the Open era after a 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory against Florian Mayer.
Having been totally off colour on Wednesday in a laboured three-set victory over Italian qualifier Paolo Lorenzi, Nadal proved he was back to his best against Cilic.
"I improved more than a little bit, I played better. First of all, to win a tournament you have to play well every day," said Nadal.
"I'm in the semis now. I've played three finals in a row on clay, I won two and lost one and now I'm in the semis again and that's very positive for me.
"Tomorrow will be a difficult match, I will have to play well another time, a little better than today."
Nadal will play Roger Federer's conqueror Richard Gasquet in the semi-final after the 16th seed came back from a set down to beat seventh seed Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Djokovic, who took his unbeaten run since the start of the year to 35 matches, seemed to be in a battle royale until 3-3 in the first set when he then reeled off nine games in a row against Soderling.
He faces a semi-final against Murray, who became the first British man since George 'Pat' Hughes in 1932 to get this far in Rome.
"It is important, it's nice to do well in tournaments abroad and this tournament has been around a long, long time," said Murray.
"There's a lot of history, it's always had great fields. Every year I've been here when you walk to the practice courts there's a list of winners down a wall that has a lot of great players."
The world number four was completely out of sorts in the first set but then went on to win 11 of the last 12 games as Mayer crumbled.
Murray had never even reached the quarters here until this year but after a poor start riddled with unforced errors, he found his form on his least favourite surface, finishing with twice as many winners as his opponent.
In the women's event, world number one Caroline Wozniacki reached the semis after a three-set thriller that lasted almost two and a half hours.
The Dane survived a mid-match collapse to edge past twice former winner Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 and will next face Maria Sharapova who went through when Victoria Azarenka retired injured.
The Belarusian was leading 6-4, 0-3 when she was forced to call it quits.
Azarenka later tweeted an apology over an outburst on court, insisting that her anger was aimed at herself and not Sharapova.
Li Na of China made the semi-finals after completing a quick 6-3, 6-1 victory over Hungarian Greta Arn.
Li will face Australian Samantha Stosur next as she upset home hopes and gained revenge for her French Open final defeat last year by beating Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 6-4.
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