David Ferrer stunned top-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-5 and Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer from a set and break down in the Paris Masters semifinals on Saturday.
Djokovic prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 for his 16th straight match win.
Ferrer had lost nine straight times to Nadal, including in this year's French Open final, and hadn't beaten his fellow Spaniard in almost three years. But this time the defending champion hit 29 winners to 19 and won 14 of 18 net points.
“I played maybe my best match this season,” Ferrer said, “very aggressive with my forehand and with my shots.” Ferrer broke for 3-1 and went a set up with a low forehand volley. He capitalised on a wide forehand from Nadal to lead 2-1 in the second set.
Ferrer saved five break points in that set but failed to serve out the match at 5-4, allowing Nadal to break back. Nadal gave Ferrer another chance as he hit a forehand long to drop serve. Ferrer went on to seal the victory with a forehand winner.
“I was slow,” Nadal said. “Always I was a little bit late on the ball. So against a player like David, he's quick and he plays inside the court, and he puts pressure on you all the time, you are dead, no?”
Nadal's best result at the Paris Masters was runner-up in 2007. He still leads 20-5 against Ferrer but acknowledged his successful year is taking its toll on him.
“At the end of the season, a lot of times the body, the mind, and the tennis are tougher for me,” Nadal said. “I arrived a bit more tired, and the condition of these courts didn't help me a lot.”
Nadal unseated Djokovic atop the rankings by reaching the final of the China Open last month. He looks to finish the season as No. 1 for the first time since 2010. In the other semifinal, Djokovic was facing Federer for the 30th time but the first this year.
Djokovic struggled with his serve early, making two straight double faults to hand Federer a break point. Federer converted it for 2-1 with a backhand volley after hitting a drop shot to draw the Serb to the net. The 17-time Grand Slam champion saved four break points at 5-4 and took the first set when Djokovic hit a backhand return long.
“The key was just to hang in there and stay with him,” Djokovic said. “I knew that he's going to be very aggressive from the start coming to the net. He used his opportunities really well. He was very efficient at the net. Then, I tried to decrease the number of unforced errors and step in when it's needed.”
Federer, who won the Paris Masters two years ago, capitalised on an unforced error from Djokovic to break the Serb in the opening game of the second set. But Djokovic immediately broke back before taking a 4-2 lead when Federer netted a routine forehand volley.
The second-seeded Serb now seemed in control of the match, hitting 11 winners to five for Federer in the second set. “My serve was better towards the end of the second set,” Djokovic said. “And I got more free points, let's say, on my first serves, which was one of the keys today.”
''I needed to have better placement on my serve and just not go too much for the power but rather accuracy, and it worked well afterwards.”
The Australian Open champion broke Federer twice in the final set and clinched the victory with a forehand winner.
Djokovic still has a slim chance to finish the season ahead of Nadal in the rankings.
Despite the loss, Federer still leads 16-14 against Djokovic. “I was pretty happy with my level of play,” the Swiss said. “I wish I could have kept it up for a bit longer and put him under pressure.”