Cincinnati:Novak Djokovic handed number one-in-waiting Rafael Nadal his first defeat in nearly three months, stunning the Spaniard 6-1, 7-5 on Saturday to reach the final of the Cincinnati Masters.
The Serbian third seed snapped a 32-match win streak for Nadal, who was last defeated on May 7 by compatriot and former number one Juan Carlos Ferrero in Rome, with Nadal suffering from foot blisters.
Djokovic is re-emerging as a force in the game just two days after Roger Federer lost his grip on the top ranking after four and a half years. The Swiss star lost here in the third round to Ivo Karlovic.
Djokovic has defeated Nadal in four of their six matches on hardcourt.
Djokovic will line up in a revenge repeat of last week's losing quarter-final in Toronto when he takes on Andy Murray on Sunday.
Murray will rise to a career-best sixth ranking after defeating Karlovic 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first Masters Series final.
"I think it's great to get as high as that," said the delighted Scot. "At the beginning of the year a lot of people were asking me if my new setup (after splitting with coach Brad Gilbert) was going to work and questioning if it was the right thing for me to do.
"I think my results showed that it took a little bit of time but that it's paying off, and I'm enjoying myself much more on court.
"I'm much calmer, and obviously my results have got better and better as the year's gone on."
Despite his loss and whatever happens at the Beijing Olympics, Nadal will take over the top ranking from Federer on August 18 as computer points drop off.
Djokovic, the Australian Open champion and winner of two Masters shields already this season, will climb to second in the 2008 season points race.
Djokovic ripped off from a standing start, reaching a 5-0 lead after just 19 minutes before second seed Nadal got on the scoreboard. The Serb won the opener in 25 minutes, with 11 winners versus only two for Nadal.
Djokovic, who won the first eight points of the evening, lost only four points on serve in the opening phase.
Nadal lifted slightly in the second set, but Djokovic answered by saving the lone break point he faced in the sixth game to level 3-3.
The third seed ended that game with his fifth ace after coming from 0-30 and broke Nadal in the penultimate game of the match.
Murray, conferring with coach Miles Maclagan by telephone with the skipper back home attending a weekend wedding, played smart tennis to earn his victory.
The Scot has now stopped Karlovic twice this season after defeating the Croatian at Indian Wells in March.
"He's obviously got a great serve, but I've read it well in the past. Today I did the same," said Murray. "You've still got to come up with passes because he volleys well.
"I hit some great lobs and passing shots, which is why I managed to break him so many times (four)."
Sky-hook server Karlovic was made to look average by Murray, who held him to a minimal six aces in the 81-minute contest after the Croatian entered with an average of 20 per match this week.
Murray improved to 34-12 on this season of two titles, and won his 21st hardcourt match.