NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO moved closer to a spot in next month’s season-ending showpiece in London with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 defeat of Radek Stepanek for a semi-final place at the Shanghai Masters.The Russian sixth seed, who missed three months of the season with injuries but has still reached a dozen quarter-finals in 2009, leapfrogged Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez to stand a provisional ninth in the race to the World Tour Finals.Three places remain up for grabs in the eight-man field with a month of the regular ATP season to go.Davydenko, 28, next faces second seed Novak Djokovic.”Stepanek changed the game in the second set,” Davydenko said. ”He started to better return and play better from the baseline.”He’s very difficult to play, so unpredictable. You never know what he will do in a match.”The Russian is trying to complete the autumn Asian swing with a second title after lifting his third of the season in Kuala Lumpur a fortnight ago.”I’ve had good results in Asia for three weeks,” he said.”I still have three more tournaments this season. I hope I can play well [at the final Masters 1000 of the season] at Paris Bercy and defend my semi-final there.”Spain’s unseeded Feliciano Lopez continued his winning streak, producing his best showing of 2009 for a place in the final four by upsetting ninth seed Robin Soderling 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.The Swede, who played the Roland Garros final against Roger Federer, led 4-2 in the opening set before Lopez, 28 and ranked 41st, seized the momentum for the win in 94 minutes with three breaks of serve and 30 unforced errors by Soderling.Lopez next faces fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who won after his opponent, Ivan Ljubicic, retired with a leg problem to hand a 3-6, 6-3 win to the top-seeded Spaniard.Nadal expressed disappointment at the bitter ending as the veteran Croatian could not go on at an event peppered with pull-outs all week, including the loss of Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick and US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro.”I’m sorry for Ivan,” said the world No.2, who has also had physical problems this season.”I wish him a fast recovery. I know how tough it is to be injured.”Nadal missed his Wimbledon title defence due to knee problems and needed a month to recover from an abdominal strain.”I’m happy to be in the semi-finals,” said Nadal. ”I’m also very happy for Feliciano. He’s been having a difficult year and this is a big result for him. He will be coming to the court with confidence. I hope to play a good match and have my chances to win.”Frenchman Gilles Simon put up a fight before Djokovic struggled through into his second straight semi-final in China with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win in their quarter-final.Djokovic backed up his Beijing title of last weekend as he overcame stiff resistance to advance into the last four, with Simon saving a pair of match points.
Nanjing Night Net

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