MONTREAL, Quebec: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal delivered crushing defeats on Friday to set up their 36th career clash in the semifinals of the Montreal Masters.
Djokovic hammered France’s Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-2 as the top seed motored into final four. Nadal was equally ruthless with Australian qualifier Marinko Matosevic 6-4, 6-2.
Nadal leads his Serbian rival 20-15 in their career series, winning the last two in Monte Carlo and Roma after Djokovic had claimed the previous seven.
Milos Raonic and wildcard Vasek Pospisil set up an all-Canadian semifinals at the bottom of the draw.
Pospisil, living the dream week of his career, had it easy in his quarterfinals as Russian opponent Nikolay Davydenko retired with a respiratory ailment while trailing 3-0. Raonic, overcame Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-4.
Pospisil had reached the quarterfinals with his first top-10 victory, a third-round defeat of Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic, a three-time champion in Canada who is bidding for his third-straight title at the event, won his eighth match out of nine against Gasquet and his sixth in a row in the series.
“Everything was working in my game,” said the winner, “It was close to the perfection. In every part of my game I did almost my best.
“From the start I tried to dictate the play on the court and be in control of the rallies.
I’ve done really well. The serve was very efficient, very high percentage of first serves, a lot of aces, a lot of free points.
“That’s something that obviously gives you confidence when you’re playing at this level.”
Nadal, leading the ATP on seven titles this season, spent an hour and a quarter in dispatching Matosevic. He said that after a seven-week pause following an early Wimbledon loss that his problem left knee feels fine.
“I’m happy with the way that it feels and also with having a chance to play after such a long pause. To be in a semifinals on fast hardcourt now is amazing for me. I’m enjoying every moment.
“I need to try my best and play my best tennis if I’m to have a chance against Novak. The court is fast and that will favor him, but I’m glad to be in the semifinals.”
Raonic and Pospisil are the first Canadians since Mike Belkin in 1969 to reach the semi-finals of this event.
Raonic, starting to thrive under the guidance of new coach Ivan Ljubicic, ran his record over Gulbis, conqueror of Wimbledon champion Andy Murray 24 hours earlier, to 4-0.
Pospisil is trying to keep a grip on his emotions.
“This is a huge week for me (ranking) points-wise. Top 50 was a life-long goal of mine, the goal that I set at the beginning of this year. Now I’m there already.
“So my goals are already changing. I’ll try to reset them a little bit and try to keep moving up.”
World number 13 Raonic has come out of a trough this week after failing to get past the third round during the past three months.
Raonic is looking forward to the unprecedented clash.
“It’s great in what it represents for Canadian tennis,” said Raonic. “It’s great what it shows to little kids: that you can succeed as a Canadian in tennis.
“But for what I want to achieve, what I’ve got to do to prepare myself as best as possible for tomorrow, it doesn’t change anything.”