ROME: Rafael Nadal said he expects a tough battle with Novak Djokovic for his eighth Rome Masters title on Sunday after sweeping aside Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals.
Nadal came through a tough clash with British number one Andy Murray late on Friday but the world number one had little trouble dispatching Dimitrov in what was an error-strewn performance from the 12th seed.
Nadal has won at Rome a record seven times and, going on statistics, will be tipped for an eighth on Sunday, as defending women’s champion Serena Williams meets Italian Sara Errani in a bid to defend her title.
Overall, Djokovic has won 18 of his 40 previous meetings with Nadal, including the last three although they came on hard courts.
But of the duo’s 16 meetings on clay, Nadal has won 13 including their last meeting on the surface at the semi-finals of the French Open in 2013.
Nadal, however, said he expects a “complicated” match.
“Djokovic always plays unbelievable. He’s a complicated player to play against,” said Nadal.
Djokovic, the number two seed, had ousted David Ferrer 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals on Friday.
But on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) the Serbian world number two was stretched over two tight sets by Canadian Milos Raonic, whose serves were regularly coming in just under the 230 km/h mark, before outlasting the eighth seed in a one-sided third.
“I can’t recall the last time when I was feeling so helpless returning, even his second serves,” said Djokovic after the 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-3 win.
Earlier, Errani booked her place in the women’s final to maintain her hopes of becoming the first Italian woman to win the tournament in 29 years.
The 27-year-old 10th seed had upset China’s number two seed Li Na 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 on Friday (Saturday in Manila) and went on oust Serbian sixth seed Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 7-5 in their semifinal match.