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Djokovic Finds Form; Fognini Upsets Gasquet

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic has found his form on the clay.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic looks to have found his form at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. After being extended to three sets in his first two matches, the Serb issued a ruthless dismissal of Jarkko Nieminen in Friday’s quarter-finals, defeating the 31-year-old Finn 6-4, 6-3 in 77 minutes.

"It was great," said Djokovic. "Very solid from the back of the court. Played with the right intensity from the start of the match till the end. That's a big step forward for me today comparing to the first two matches in every sense. I finally got a great feel on the clay. Hopefully I can maintain that level tomorrow."

The 25-year-old Djokovic has been feeling his way into the tournament, suffering with a lack of practice time having twisted his ankle nearly two weeks ago on Davis Cup duty for Serbia against the United States. In the semi-finals, he will take on Italy’s Fabio Fognini, against whom he has a 4-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record, including victory last month at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

"I have to be prepared for quality rallies," said Djokovic. "He's a player who has won against some top players here, a player who feels good. He is going to have nothing to lose and will be motivated to play well in front of his Italian supporters that are many here."

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Djokovic is looking to dethrone Rafael Nadal and win this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament for the first time, having finished runner-up to the Spaniard in 2009 and 2012. He has already won two titles this season, triumphing at the Australian Open (d. Murray) and Dubai (d. Berdych).

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World No. 32 Fognini stormed into the semi-finals, recording his second Top 10 win a row as he defeated World No. 9 Richard Gasquet of France 7-6(0), 6-2 in 87 minutes. Roared on by the largely Italian crowd in Monaco, Fognini became the first Italian player to reach the semi-finals at the Monte-Carlo Country Club since Andrea Gaudenzi in 1995 (l. to Muster). 

"I played another time I think a really good match with a fantastic player," said Fognini. "I mean, he is Top 10 and has won so many tournaments. Now I just have to say I'm really happy. It's my first semi-final in Monte Carlo, my home. I'm so happy. 

"This is one of the best performances ever for me," continued the Italian. "It's my first semi-final at a Masters 1000. I have another opportunity to play with a great player here in the centre court in front of so many people, special friends and family."

The 25-year-old Sanremo native saved a set point at 4-5 in the first set and dominated the ensuing tie-break. He then broke Gasquet twice in the second set to beat the Frenchman for the first time in three meetings.

Archive: Read Fognini Feature in DEUCE

Fognini recorded the biggest win of his career when he upset fourth seed Tomas Berdych in the third round on Thursday. It was only his second Top 10 win in 23 attempts. He is the first unseeded semi-finalist in Monte-Carlo since Juan Carlos Ferrero and Gasquet in 2005 and is the first Italian to reach an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final since Andreas Seppi in Hamburg in May 2008.

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