World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic swept past Roger Federer to set up a Rome Masters final rematch with five-time winner Rafael Nadal.
Top seed Djokovic ended Federer's brilliant run of recent clay form, defeating the world number two, and last week's Madrid champion, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) while Nadal reached a seventh Rome final with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-0 win over compatriot David Ferrer.
Federer saved a match point for 5-5 in the second set as he broke Djokovic on a stinging forehand winner.
But he could not extend that battling instinct into the tie-breaker, with Djokovic taking victory on his second winning chance as the Swiss put a backhand long after an hour and 39 minutes on court.
"This was my best match on clay so far," said Djokovic.
"I was focused from the beginning and very determined and concentrated.
"I was hitting the ball well and returning extremely well. I was making him play the extra shot and make errors. I'm very pleased to be back in the final."
After defeating Ferrer for the 12th consecutive time on clay, Nadal will face Djokovic for the 32nd time on Sunday, with the Spaniard going into the contest holding a 17-14 lead.
Nadal won their last meeting in April for the Monte Carlo title, snapping a run of seven consecutive losses to his rival in finals dating back to March 2011.
"I've raised the level of our rivalry," said Djokovic.
"Playing Rafa in the finals again is very encouraging. It is what I want before Roland Garros."
Djokovic controlled Federer in their first meeting since the US Open semis last autumn when Federer held two match points but lost. Since that disappointment he has won seven ATP titles.
"Overall, I wasn't playing quite good enough," said Federer, who admitted that he was relieved the tournament was over.
"I've played a lot of tennis in the last few weeks. Novak was looking fresh, he was better tonight. He really put pressure on me."
AFPTags: tennis, sport, italy, australia First posted May 20, 2012 09:19:34