Shanghai:Second-ranked Rafael Nadal kept his chances alive for reaching the semifinals of the Masters Cup, beating No 3 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 in a match between two players clearly weary from a long season.
No 6 David Ferrer was playing No 8 Richard Gasquet in the final Gold Group round-robin match later on Thursday, with the results determining which two players will advance to the semifinals of the season-ending tournament for the top eight men in the rankings.
Nadal, both knees taped as in recent weeks, had a little more determination not to lose. He had Djokovic, who has admitted to exhaustion from more than 100 matches this year and off-court demands on his time, in almost constant trouble.
Djokovic fended off two break points in the first game, then saw Nadal run off four straight games to take control.
Djokovic showed flashes of the skills that carried him from No 16 in the rankings in January to five titles and No 3 in the world. But, too often, the Serb's shoulders were slumping as shots that would have been winners earlier in the year were just missing. He gave a bitter smile when he netted a forehand as Nadal served at 5-4 in the first set, then trudged to his chair when he sent a backhand long on set point.
Nadal got an early break in the second set and was increasingly demonstrative as the match wore on. The Spaniard, serving at 4-3, pumped his fist eight times after fending off the second of two Djokovic break points with a great backhand volley for a player not known for his net game.
Nadal smacked a forehand winner down the line on match point.
On Friday, top-ranked Roger Federer will seek a semifinal place when he faces No 5 Andy Roddick, who already has clinched his semifinals berth. No 4 Nikolay Davydenko, who has been eliminated after losing both of his matches, faces No 7 Fernando Gonzalez in the other Red Group match.