SHANGHAI, Nov 15 (Reuters) World number two Rafael Nadal blasted past Serb Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup here today.
The French Open champion sank to his knees in celebration after his Gold Group match but still faced a nervous wait before his place in the last four was assured.
Nadal's fellow Spaniard David Ferrer guaranteed his close friend would join him in the knockout stages by pulverising Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-1 6-1.
American Andy Roddick became the first man to reach the semi-finals the previous evening, while world number one Roger Federer is hot favourite to claim the final spot tomorrow.
An inspired Ferrer finished on a perfect 3-0 round-robin record with Nadal going through as runner-up in their group on 2-1 having lost to his compatriot earlier this week.
"I played a complete match -- one of my best matches of the indoor season," Nadal told reporters. "Even if I'd gone out today I would have gone out with very good feelings." Djokovic, already eliminated after losing his first two matches, failed to consistently threaten Nadal, who was fired-up from the start.
A lucky net cord gave Nadal an early break and Djokovic effectively surrendered the set when he dumped an easy volley into the net to drop serve again in the fifth game.
Nadal dashed any ideas Djokovic had of a comeback with a lunging backhand volley to hold to 5-3 in the second set, pumping his fists and roaring in delight after winning a marathon point.
A looping forehand down the line sealed a comprehensive victory for Nadal, while Djokovic was left to lick his wounds after a disappointing Masters Cup debut.
"I'm going to go somewhere far, far away from everybody," smiled Djokovic, who won five titles and reached the U.S. Open final in 2007.
"I'm still just 20 years old and I'm number three in the world but I still need a little something more." Ferrer's confidence was sky-high after beating Nadal on Tuesday and he rattled of 20 of the last 23 points to take the first set in just 26 minutes.
The Spaniard, who thrashed Gasquet 6-1 6-2 in the final of the Japan Open just over a month ago, blew him off the court in even quicker fashion this time, taking just 59 minutes.
REUTERS HSO RN1902