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Djokovic gears up for another Nadal final

HOLDER Novak Djokovic took advantage of Roger Federer's slump after a rain break to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday to set up a Rome Masters final against world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

Nadal, a triple champion here, powered past Chilean 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-3.

"He's going to be the favorite to win again," the third-ranked Djokovic said. "But I have my chances especially after the great performance in Monte Carlo (last month).

"I learned I have to play every point against him," added the Serb who took Nadal to three sets in the Monte Carlo Masters final. "That's what I'm going to try to do. Physically prepare to be ready to play long rallies and wait for the chances."

Second seed Federer, yet to win a title this year, looked to be cruising when leading 6-4, 2-1 but rain then stopped play for about an hour.

The Swiss broke in the ninth game when Djokovic, whose concentration had been disturbed by a spectator whistling just as he was about to take his second serve, hit a forehand long.

Federer went on to claim the first set before breaking the 21-year-old Serb again at the start of the second. He had chances to go 3-0 and 4-1 up either side of the rain break before wild shots helped Djokovic force a third set.

The third seed then charged back from a break down in the decider.

Gonzalez pulled off the rare feat of breaking Nadal to love to rally after losing his serve early on.

However, the Spaniard produced a fierce reaction, winning the next six games on his way to victory.

In Stuttgart, Germany, world No. 1 Dinara Safina staged a comeback to beat Italian Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 on Saturday and reach the Porsche Grand Prix final where she will face fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Pennetta had punished the Australian Open runner-up with some powerful groundstrokes on the indoor claycourt as the Russian struggled with her serve, hitting five double faults in the first set which the Italian won after 35 minutes.

Safina, who topped the rankings on April 20, was broken again as world No. 14 Pennetta looked to be cruising to victory with a 3-1 lead.

But the Italian then lost three consecutive games to allow the Russian, who had not dropped a set and had only lost 13 games in her previous three rounds, to level at 5-5.

Safina never looked back, winning eight straight games as her 27-year-old opponent collapsed in the third, to reach her third final after Sydney and Melbourne.


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