World no. 1 Novak Djokovic is set to make a showdown with Rafael Nadal in the Italian Open final after defeating Roger Federer in their semi-final clash 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).
Djokovic ended Federer’s brilliant run of recent clay form, defeating the world number two, and last week’s Madrid champion.
The Serbian dominated the baseline rallies to break Federer twice in the opening set.
That pattern continued into the second set, until 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer became more aggressive and took it to a tie-break.
It proved too little, too late, however, as Djokovic regained the initiative to book his place in the final.
The defending champion, appearing in his fifth straight semi-final in Rome, improved to 22-3 at the venue, one of the few where Federer does not own a trophy after losing 2003 and 2006 finals.
Meanwhile, Nadal unbeaten in clay-court semi-finals since 2003, reached the Rome final with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-0 victory against compatriot David Ferrer.
The Spaniard second seed struggled with his backhand but overcame a difficult first set to post his 11th consecutive win on clay over compatriot Ferrer.
“It was unbelievable how David started, he had great rhythm, no errors, was playing aggressive and moving well,” said Nadal.
Nadal, with clay court titles this season in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, added: “Even if I lose I feel I’ve had a great preparation during the red clay season.
Reaching the final is the best thing that could have happened. My clay season has been almost perfect.