Shanghai - Novak Djokovic eased into the Shanghai Masters semi-finals on Friday after a brilliant start by Bernard Tomic fizzled into one of the Australian's trademark damp squibs.
Top-ranked Djokovic was pushed all the way in a thrilling opener but after he edged the tiebreak 8/6, it was plain sailing as Tomic capitulated 7-6 (8/6), 6-1.
The two swapped breaks early in the first set and with 20th-ranked Tomic standing up to Djokovic in the rallies, they were inseparable heading into the tiebreak.
But Tomic's head dropped after he limply netted on his opponent's third set point and he was broken three times in the second set before double-faulting on match point.
"I think physically maybe he felt a bit exhausted. Last night he played three sets. He finished after midnight. Maybe that has influenced a little bit his game in the second set," Djokovic said.
"Then again, I've started to read his serve a little bit better, started to move him around the court. The first game of the second set was crucial, I think, making that break."
Tomic has a reputation for quick losses and was once dubbed "Tomic the tank engine". Last year he lost the fastest recorded match 6-0, 6-1 to Jarkko Nieminen in 28 minutes, 20 seconds in Miami.
But the 23-year-old, who had a late-night tussle with Richard Gasquet on Thursday, has been rising up the rankings and he is now projected to reach a career high of 18.
"For me it was very, very important this first set -- after, I think I was dead," Tomic said. "I was trying to stay with him but he looked so fresh and so energetic.
"Every point I was playing, I kept digging myself in a deeper hole in the second set."
Earlier, Rafael Nadal's renaissance took a big step forward as he whipped a flagging Stan Wawrinka for the loss of just three games to reach the semi-finals.
Nadal beat the world number four 6-2, 6-1 to bring up his first win over a top-five player in more than a year and extend a hot streak after he also reached last week's China Open final.
Spain's Nadal was on court for just 64 minutes against Wawrinka, who was also feeling the effects of his marathon three-setter against Marin Cilic late the previous night.
The French Open champion from Switzerland, who won last week in Tokyo, made 34 unforced errors and was on target with just 45 percent of his first serves as he folded meekly.
"Today I was just struggling a little bit. It's that simple. Against Nadal you cannot do anything if you're not 100 percent," Wawrinka said.
Nadal will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last four as he bids to keep up his record of winning at least one Masters title every season since 2005.
More importantly, hours of extra work on the practice court look to be paying off as after a tough year, Nadal looks to recapture the form that brought him 14 Grand Slam titles.
"Being in the semi-finals is a great result for me. I didn't play any semi-finals on hard court this year, now I am playing (them) two weeks in a row," he said.
Earlier Tsonga laboured to a three-set win over big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 6-4 to go into the semi-final with Nadal.
Djokovic, seeking his ninth title of the year, will face either second-ranked Andy Murray or Tomas Berdych who were playing each other in the late match.
3-Andy Murray (Britain) beat 5-Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) 6-1 6-3
1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beat Bernard Tomic (Australia) 7-6(6) 6-1
8-Rafa Nadal (Spain) beat 4-Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) 6-2 6-1
16-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) beat 12-Kevin Anderson (South Africa) 7-6(6) 5-7 6-4