Djokovic struggles to semi-finals

SHANGHAI: Frenchman Gilles Simon put up a fight before second seed Novak Djokovic struggled through into his second straight semi-final in China with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win at the Shanghai Masters on Friday.

Second seed 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. The Serb broke to start the opening set before Simon, winner of the Bangkok title last month, retaliated by taking the second. A run of breaks in the third finally ended with Djokovic taking a 4-2 lead on his way to a semi-final spot in his fifth Masters 1000 of the season.

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 in his quarter final. 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 currently 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, aged 28, next faces Djokovic standing 0-3 in the series. Spain’s unseeded Feliciano Lopez continued his winning streak of the season, producing his best showing of 2009 for a place in the final four with an upset of 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.

Davydenko regained control against 13th-seed Stepanek after the 30-year-old Czech won the second set to pull level. Davydenko re-established his dominance in the final set as he broke twice and went through on his first match point after just over two hours at the Qi Zhong complex.

Japan Open

OSAKA: Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki avenged her recent loss to Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada to reach the semi-finals at the Japan Open women’s tennis tournament.

The 19-year-old Danish top seed, who conceded a match against the Canadian while suffering a viral illness in Tokyo two weeks ago, restored her status with a 6-2, 6-7 (1/7), 6-2 win.

Wozniacki, ranked sixth in the world after her runner-up finish at the US Open, took the last four games in a row to win the first set with ease. She found herself 0-4 down in a second-set tie-breaker, eventually losing it 1-7. But the Dane chalked up a comfortable 4-0 lead in the final set and was never again in danger in the two-hour, 13-minute battle.

In the semis on Saturday, Wozniacki takes on third seed Samantha Stosur of Australia, the winner over 2002 champion Jill Craybas of the United States. The other semi-final match will be played between fourth seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Indian star Sania Mirza, who both got through their quarter-final matches comfortably.

Schiavone walked over seventh seed Melinda Czink of Hungary, who abandoned Friday’s match with a right foot injury. The 22-year-old Mirza defeated 2006 champion Marion Bartoli when the French second seed retired with a right shoulder problem at 6-4, 2-0 down.

Bartoli was vying for the final spot in the season-ending championships against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, Vera Zvonareva of Russia, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, and Flavia Pennetta of Italy.