Djokovic passes Ferrer test to keep winning sequence

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The Independent Online

David Ferrer presented the biggest threat yet to Novak Djokovic's unbeaten run in 2011 but the 23-year-old Serb kept up his remarkable winning sequence at the Madrid Masters last night. Ferrer kept the world No 2 on court for nearly two and a half hours in their quarter-final but it was Djokovic who emerged victorious, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Securing his 30th win of the year took Djokovic past Ivan Lendl's landmark of consecutive victories in the early months of 1986. He has made the best start to a season since John McEnroe's 42-match winning run in 1984. Djokovic will now face Andy Murray's conqueror, Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci, who beat Tomas Berdych 7-6, 6-3 in his first appearance in a Masters Series quarter-final.

Today's other semi-final brings together Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for their 24th meeting. Nadal has won 15 times and will be the strong favourite to win again, having not lost on clay since the 2009 French Open.

The 24-year-old Spaniard's 36th win in succession on clay came in a one-sided quarter-final against Michael Llodra, who was beaten 6-2, 6-2. Nadal needed only 75 minutes to brush aside the Frenchman.

Llodra did not have any break points and rarely looked capable of stopping Nadal, who has dropped only eight games so far this week. Federer reached the last four with a 7-6, 6-4 victory over Robin Soderling.

Victoria Azarenka, who is enjoying one of the best runs of her career, reached the semi-finals of the women's event despite dropping a set for the first time this week. The Belarussian beat Lucie Safarova 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

Azarenka will climb to No 4 in the world rankings if she reaches tomorrow's final. She now plays Germany's Julia Goerges, who knocked out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-2. China's Li Na faces the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova in the other semi-final.

Elena Baltacha, the British No 1, is through to her first clay-court semi-final after beating Kristina Barrois 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 at the International Tennis Federation tournament at Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France. "I stayed relaxed, I was calm and I used my experience and that was really, really important today," Baltacha said. "I'm beginning to do that on all surfaces. I think I'm finally starting to use my age in a really positive way."