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Topic - Rafael Nadal
Djokovic, who has not lost a match since his defeat to Nadal in the U.S. Open final, returned superbly from the start to move his Spanish rival around the court and prevent him from dictating the points.
Nadal leads Djokovic 22-16 in their head-to-head record, but the Serbian won their latest encounter last month in Beijing after losing his top ranking to the Spaniard.
Djokovic, undefeated in last year's Finals, improved to 2-0 in Group B with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over the hard-hitting Juan Martin del Potro. Federer, who lost to Djokovic earlier in the week, easily defeated Richard Gasquet.
Just nine months after returning from his career-threatening injury, Nadal became the first player to hold, lose and regain the year-end No. 1 spot twice by beating Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6) at the ATP finals. Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl did it once in their careers.
Nadal improved to 60-3 with nine titles this season. His total of 13 major trophies ranks third in the history of men's tennis, behind only Roger Federer's 17 and Pete Sampras' 14.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have built the best rivalry in tennis on a mountain of big-time matches, the likes of which they'll play Monday in the U.S. Open final
Pennetta, ranked 83rd, hasn't dropped a set en route to the semifinals. Gasquet made his second Grand Slam semifinal, the only other coming at Wimbledon in 2007.
The words he spoke after his surprisingly straightforward 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19th-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain made it sound as if Roger Federer is having doubts about his game.
Roberta Vinci will face a fellow Italian in the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the second straight year.
The last man from the United States left is Tim Smyczek, a 25-year-old from Milwaukee who got into the main draw thanks to a wild-card invitation from the U.S. Tennis Association.
The second-seeded Azarenka took 2 hours, 40 minutes to win 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2 against Alize Cornet in the third round Saturday.
The Swiss great needed just 93 minutes to beat Grega Zemlja in straight sets. Federer defeated the 62nd-ranked Slovenian 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in a matchup postponed from Monday night because of rain.
Defending champion Andy Murray could face top-seeded Novak Djokovic only in the U.S. Open semifinals, while Nadal and Federer — who have never played each other at Flushing Meadows — might meet in the quarterfinals.
The 27-year-old Spaniard took advantage of the few openings he got Sunday against John Isner, grinding out a 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3) win at the Western & Southern Open that added yet another title to his sensational summer.
Isner, who fell from No. 20 to 22 this week, will return to the top 20 after a stimulating Cincinnati run that includes beating three straight top-10 players for the first time in his career.
"All that is in my mind is to keep working hard to come back," Nadal said.
"I was very, very sad for three weeks around then," he said. "It only comes every four years. Missing the U.S. Open was hard, but you think you will have more chances."