By Patrick Johnston
World number one Novak Djokovic continued his dominance of the Chinese hardcourts by swatting aside a misfiring Andy Murray 6-1 6-3 to reach the final of the Shanghai Masters on Saturday.
The Serbian will take on Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final on Sunday after the 16th seed recorded a 6-4 0-6 7-5 win over Rafa Nadal, his first in almost four years against the Spaniard.
The 30-year-old Frenchman was delighted with his scintillating display featuring 40 winners, mainly from a fearsome forehand, but will have to find yet another gear if he is to upset Djokovicon Sunday.
The 10-time grand slam champion is aiming for his third Shanghai title on the back of securing his sixth China Open crown last week when he dismantled Nadal in the Beijing final.
Briton Murray, twice a champion in Shanghai, knew a fast start was necessary if he was to upset his long term foe but he did just the opposite.
The world number two served a paltry 43 per cent of first serves in the opening set, offered four double faults and 17 unforced errors as he was broken in three straight games to concede the opener.
He rebounded at the start of the second by breaking Djokovic to 15 and hustled and harried in trademark gamely fashion but the small bit of momentum was lost as he gave away his next service game.
The Serb was imperious from the back of the court and broke again before serving out comfortably to improve his head-to-head record to 20-9 over Murray.
“I felt great from the first point. I was playing with very high intensity, especially on serve,”Djokovic said in a courtside interview.
Like Djokovic, Tsonga has a fondness for the courts in Shanghai and will be hopeful of repeating his Saturday form when he takes on the Serb.
“This surface is one of my favourites. I know I’m able to play good tennis. Before I came here, I didn’t know if I will be able to play that good. I hope it’s going to continue,” he said.
The Frenchman fired down 11 aces to record his first win over Nadal since the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals and move up to ninth in his bid to qualify again for the eight man end-of-season championships in London.
Nadal, a winner of 14 grand slam singles titles, struggled to cope with Tsonga in the opening set as the Frenchman pressured the Spaniard’s serve with some heavy hitting.
He secured the break in the fifth game at the third time of asking but after going on to serve out the set, Tsonga’s game crumbled in the second set as Nadal easily levelled without dropping a game to force a decider.
Nadal, looking for a first hard court title in almost two years, was forced to save some early break points but the third set remained on serve until Tsonga struck in the 11th game of an enthralling encounter.
The 30-year-old Frenchman produced an eye-catching dive volley to force match point, which he converted to reach his first Masters final since he triumphed in Toronto last year.