MADRID: Novak Djokovic reached his seventh Madrid semifinal on Friday, easing past Poland's Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4 to record a 30th career victory in the Spanish capital.
The world number one awaits one of two Spaniards, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, in what will be a highly-anticipated last-four showdown.
"I don't really care who is on the opposite side of the net to be honest. I just want to be playing better and better each day. For me this is the most important thing right now, my focus and my intention is really focusing on myself," said Djokovic.
Djokovic started with a break and it was all he needed to grab the opening set in 33 minutes.
Hurkacz dropped serve in game five of the second set as Djokovic once again charged to a commanding lead.
The Polish 12th seed saved two match points on his own serve at 5-3, forcing Djokovic to serve out the win. And the 34-year-old Serb had no trouble closing, moving into the final four with an 81-minute success.
His win on Friday was just his seventh of the year and he'll be trying to make a second final of the season, having placed runner-up in Belgrade last month.
Djokovic received a walkover in the last 16 when Andy Murray pulled out with stomach illness.
"I didn't play my third round against Andy but I feel physically good, I've been striking the ball well," said Djokovic.
"It wasn't really nice looking tennis in the first set (against Hurkacz) but I think second set we raised the quality and the level. I served well when I needed to, held the break, which was sufficient in both sets."
REAL INSPIRE NADAL
On Thursday, Nadal said he drew inspiration from Real Madrid's heroic comeback against Manchester City less than 24 hours previously as he survived a scare from David Goffin, saving four match points en route to a tight 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (11/9) victory in the Madrid Open.
The win kept alive Nadal's quest for a record-extending sixth title in the Spanish capital and earned him a spot in the quarterfinals, where he faces his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.
Seventh seed Alcaraz celebrated his 19th birthday with a battling 6-4, 6-7(4/7), 6-3 over British world number 11 Cameron Norrie.
On Wednesday, Real scored in extra time to stun City 3-1 to set up a Champions League final with Liverpool later this month.
Nadal, a 21-time major champion, was contesting just his second match after a six-week break due to a rib injury and rebounded from tricky moments during his showdown with Goffin, who has a career-high ranking of seventh but is currently down to 60 in the world.
Nadal had to recover from an early break before clinching a 46-minute opening set.
The Spanish third seed held two match points and served for the second set but was stretched to a third by Goffin.
In the deciding-set tie-break, Nadal saved four match points, hitting clutch drop shots on two of them, before he finally moved into a record-extending 99th ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal and his 16th in Madrid.
"Yesterday has been an unforgettable night. The spirit that the Real Madrid team have is just incredible and for me today in some way has been an inspiration," said the 35-year-old, who attended the game at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Nadal is 2-0 against Alcaraz, having defeated the teen phenom in Madrid last year and at Indian Wells in March.
"I think that today, he is better than me and he has a good dynamic, a good momentum," Nadal said of Alcaraz, who is riding a seven-match winning streak that includes a title run in Barcelona.
"I'm clear who, from the beginning, has some kind of advantage in tomorrow's match. But in that regard, I will try to do as much as possible to be competitive."
Alcaraz said: "I dream of being the best, and I fight for it. And to be the best, you have to beat the best. I believe that I am ready for this challenge."
Sixth seed Andrey Rublev reached the seventh Masters 1000 quarterfinal of his career with a 7-6 (9/7), 7-5 result against Dan Evans of Britain.
In the last eight, Rublev will face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who downed Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-4.
Defending champion Alexander Zverev also punched his ticket to the quarterfinals after his opponent Lorenzo Musetti retired from their match in the second set with a left thigh injury.
JABEUR INTO FINAL
In the women's event, eighth seed Ons Jabeur advanced to the biggest final of her career, where she will face Jessica Pegula, with an impressive 6-2, 6-3 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova.
The Tunisian followed up wins against Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and former world number one Simona Halep with just her second success in eight meetings with Alexandrova to move into a maiden WTA 1000 final.
"It was a very emotional match. For those who don't know, I have a 1-6 record against her. So it was a tough match mentally," said Jabeur.
American Pegula ended the run of Switzerland's Jil Teichmann with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory in the second semifinal.
It will be the 12th seed's first final at this level and first in a singles tournament since losing to Serena Williams in Auckland in January 2020. -- AFP
ATP/WTA MADRID OPEN RESULTS
Men (third round)
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Andy Murray (GBR) -- walkover; Hubert Hurkacz (POL x12) bt Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 7-5, 6-3; Rafael Nadal (ESP x3) bt David Goffin (BEL) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (11/9); Carlos Alcaraz (ESP x7) bt Cameron Norrie (GBR x9) 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3; Andrey Rublev (x6) bt Dan Evans (GBR) 7-6 (9/7), 7-5; Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x4) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 6-3, 6-4; Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN x8) bt Jannik Sinner (ITA x10) 6-1, 6-2; Alexander Zverev (GER x2) bt Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 6-3, 1-0 -- retired
Jessica Pegula (USA x12) bt Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-3, 6-4; Ons Jabeur (TUN x8) bt Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 6-3