Djokovic wins in China Open tennis

BEIJING: Novak Djokovic battled into the semifinals of the China Open on Friday with a three-set win over Spain's Fernando Verdasco, putting himself one win away from regaining the world number three ranking.

Djokovic, the second seed here, overpowered fifth seed Verdasco in the third and final set, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

The Serb will replace injured Scot Andy Murray in the ATP third spot behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal if he wins his next match against Roland Garros finalist Robin Soderling of Sweden, a winner over Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic.

Murray has withdrawn from next week's Shanghai Masters with a lingering wrist injury and will slide down the rankings by being inactive and losing the winner's points he gained the same week a year ago.

Should he beat Soderling, Djokovic -- the 2008 Australian Open champion -- would overtake Murray when the ATP rankings come out on October 19, one day after the Shanghai final.

"I thought I was playing well and consistent this year, but I still dropped a spot," said the Serb. "That meant others were playing really well, including Andy Murray."

"I was surprised he pulled out from Shanghai, but that's how tennis is. It isn't the end of the year -- there are still three or four tournaments to go."

In other action in Beijing, Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova marched into the semifinals with a routine win, but compatriot Nikolay Davydenko was ousted in a straight-set upset.

Kuznetsova, the 2006 champion in Beijing, notched an easy 6-3, 6-3 victory over talented Russian teen Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who earlier this week knocked Venus Williams out of the 6.6-million-dollar mixed WTA/ATP event.

The elder Russian, the reigning French Open champion, will face compatriot Nadia Petrova in the semifinals after the 13th seed put out Peng Shuai -- the home crowd's last hope in the tournament -- 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2.

Petrova upset soon-to-be world number one Serena Williams on Thursday to reach the quarters.

On the men's side, fourth seed Davydenko, who claimed his third title of the season last week in Kuala Lumpur, was upset by Croatian eighth seed Marin Cilic in just over 90 minutes, 6-4, 6-4.

The result halted Davydenko's current run of form at six consecutive wins while Cilic, who knocked Murray out in the US Open fourth round, improved to 3-0 over the world number eight Russian.

The 15th-ranked Croatian secured his 39th match win of the season against 16 losses as he bids for a third 2009 title, following victories in Chennai and Zagreb.

In the semifinals, Cilic will face either Nadal or Russia's Marat Safin, who were due to take centre court later Friday.