PARIS: Champion Rafael Nadal coasted into the French Open semi-finals yesterday after his Serbian opponent Novak Djokovic retired injured when trailing by two sets to love in their quarter-final.
Djokovic, 19, needed treatment for a back problem during the match and quit at 15-30 in the first game of the third set having lost the first two 6-4, 6-4.
Nadal plays either Frenchman Julien Benneteau or Croatian fourth seed Ivan Ljubicic in the last four and remains on course for a much-anticipated showdown with world No 1 Roger Federer in Sunday's final.
"At the beginning of the second set I had the feeling he was injured," said Nadal, who has now gone 58 consecutive matches unbeaten on clay.
"I think it is a very tough tournament with a lot of long matches, but I'm not tired. I feel good and now I have to concentrate on the semi-final."
Nadal is only a year older than Djokovic but physically it was man against boy as the heavily muscled Mallorcan asserted his authority on a sunny centre court.
Djokovic had never been beyond the third round of a grand slam before and ousted three seeds on his way to the last eight, but he lost his opening two service games against Nadal and never recovered.
The Spaniard also lost his first service game before controlling the opening set. He took it with a skewered forehand into the corner of the court.
He was soon 4-1 up in the second with Djokovic needing a medical timeout to treat his back and left thigh.
The Serbian bravely broke back for 2-4 but an errant backhand cost him the set.
Nadal characteristically clenched his fist and Djokovic, faced with overturning a two-set deficit against a seemingly invincible opponent, called it quits soon after.
"I was only serving at 40 or 50 per cent maximum," said Djokovic.
"I don't think it would have been good for me to continue playing with the pain in my back. This is not the only tournament in the year."
He added optimistically: "I think I had control of the match. I just didn't finish it in the right way when I needed to."
In another quarter-final match on Tuesday, world No 1 Roger Federer kept alive his dream of winning all four grand slam titles by reaching the semi-finals with a breathtaking 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over Croatian Mario Ancic.
The Swiss had walked on to a sun-baked centre court on the back of a 25-match winning streak in major tournaments. Although he was tested at times by Ancic, he safely booked a place in the last four against Argentine David Nalbandian.
Source: China Daily