| David Nalbandian hits a return to Ivan Ljubicic during their Masters Cup match in Shanghai on Thursday. The Argentine won 6-2, 6-2. (Reuters)
Shanghai: Argentine David Nalbandian crushed Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals of the season-ending Masters Cup on Thursday.
World No. 1 Roger Federer and Nikolay Davydenko of Russia have already booked their places in the last four at the $4.45 million Shanghai event.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer survived a second-set meltdown to beat Argentina’s Guillermo Coria 6-0, 1-6, 6-2, giving the Swiss his 80th win of the year.
Nalbandian was beaten by Federer in his opening Red Group match but was in inspired form against Ljubicic, storming to a 5-0 lead before taking the first set in 32 minutes.
The Argentine secured a double break in the second set with a superb forehand pass on the run as Ljubicic’s game fell to pieces.
Nalbandian closed out a one-sided match with a kicking serve that a dejected Ljubicic pushed tamely out after just 67 minutes.
Ljubicic, who also lost to Federer, had been trying to become the first Croatian to reach the semi-finals of the year-ending championships since Goran Ivanisevic in 1996.
World No. 1 Federer, who had already secured his place in the semi-finals, extended his winning streak to 34 matches as he seeks a third straight Masters title. Only Ilie Nastase in 1971-73 and Ivan Lendl in 1985-87 have won three in a row.
Leander Paes and Nenad Zimonjic squandered a match point before going down in three pulsating sets to the American pair of Bob and Mike Bryan in doubles competition on Thursday.
In the edge-of-the-seat thriller in the Red group, the Indo-Serbian pair saved three match points of their own before succumbing 7-5, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7) in two hours and 30 minutes.
Paes and Zimonjic had already assured their place in the last four after winning both their earlier matches.