Djokovic maintains smashing form

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The Independent Online

China and Serbia have become close international allies in recent years, which might go some way towards explaining why Novak Djokovic feels so comfortable in this part of the world.

The 22-year-old Serb won the Tennis Masters Cup here 11 months ago, left Beijing with the China Open last weekend and yesterday secured a place in today's semi-finals of the inaugural Shanghai Masters.

While many of the leading players have struggled for fitness at the end of a gruelling season, Djokovic has looked in excellent shape. Having had an indifferent summer, he produced his best Grand Slam performance of the year in reaching the semi-finals of last month's US Open and will now replace Andy Murray as world No 3 next week.

There is no player in better form going into next month's ATP World Tour Finals in London, although it took a bout of racket-smashing for Djokovic to find his form before beating Gilles Simon 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the quarter-finals.

Having traded sets with the Frenchman Djokovic boiled over early in the decider during five successive breaks. It seemed to do the trick as the Serb won four games in a row to earn a semi-final against Nikolay Davydenko. "Most times when I smash a racket things go better," Djokovic said. "It was a very emotional and intense match."

Rafa Nadal benefited from the week's eighth retirement when Ivan Ljubicic quit with a hip injury during the first game of the final set. The Spaniard, continuing his own recovery from an abdominal injury, lost the first set 6-3 and was up against it when serving at 0-40 in the third game of the second set. However, Nadal held on to his serve and broke Ljubicic to love in the next game. He served out for the set before Ljubicic retired and now plays Feliciano Lopez, who beat Robin Soderling.