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Novak Djokovic grinds out marathon quarter-final victory to set up Rafael Nadal clash

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Highlights as Novak Djokovic came through a marathon contest against Kei Nishikori

Novak Djokovic found a way to grind out a marathon quarter-final victory against Kei Nishikori to set-up a showdown with old rival Rafael Nadal in Rome.

The former world No 1 fought back from a set down to win 2-6 6-1 6-1 in a high-quality match lasting two hours and 21 minutes.

"I just hung in there," Djokovic told Sky Sports. "We went toe-to-toe up until the very last point basically. It really could have gone either way.

"It was just tough. When you play Kei, who really feels the ball well and these conditions suit his style of game. He gets a lot of balls back, but also he plays so quick, I mean he starting firing from both sides, so it took me a little time to get used to his pace. I enjoyed the battle."

The 11th seed will now take on seven-time Rome champion Nadal for a place in Sunday's final in what will be their 51st career meeting.

Nadal silences Fognini to march on
Nadal silences Fognini to march on

Rafael Nadal defeats Fabio Fognini to reach the Rome Masters semi-finals

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during the quarter final match against Japan's Kei Nishikori at Rome's ATP Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico, on May 18, 2018 in Rome

It is the first semi-final Djokovic has reached in a disappointing year for the Serbian following his return from injury, but he will be buoyed by his recent upturn in form which has seen him produce some of his very best tennis.

Djokovic holds a 26-24 lead over Nadal in their head-to-head and he has won 11 out of their last 13 encounters.

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"I have to embrace it [facing Nadal]. I have to obviously give everything I've got," said the four-time champion in the Italian capital. "This is what I work for, to get to the latter stages of a major event, and I haven't had this feeling for quite a while. It's been a year since I played a semi-final [which was in Eastbourne on the eve of Wimbledon in 2017].

"I like the conditions and I get good support here. People love tennis, it's really exciting so hopefully I'll be able to play my best tennis."

They renew this rivalry and it's going to be sensational. Again, both players will feel the nerves and the pressure coming out there. That's what's so amazing - when these guys walk out onto the court they put themselves in a super-pressurised environment. And how they play the kind of tennis they play, they continue to amaze just getting to this match and I'm sure they'll do it again on Saturday. A couple of moments will decide it you feel. If Rafa serves well it's going to be key and Novak also needs to serve well because Rafa's been playing aggressively when he gets a chance.
Leif Shiras on Nadal v Djokovic

In the other half of the draw, Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic beat 10th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3 6-3. The Croatian's next opponent will be defending champion Alexander Zverev who beat ninth seed David Goffin of Belgium 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the day's final match to remain on course to defend his title after notching up a 12th consecutive victory.

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Highlights of the Rome Masters quarter-final match between Alexander Zverev and David Goffin

Djokovic v Nadal: The Lowdown

Djokovic Head-To-Head Nadal
26 Wins 24
7 Clay 15
8 Masters 1000 9
3 Rome Masters 3
11 Since 2013 2

The 1000 Series continues with our coverage of the first ATP Rome Masters men's semi-final on Sky Sports Mix, channel 121, which is free for all Sky customers, from 1pm on Saturday. And the second semi-final will be shown live on Sky Sports Action from 7pm.

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