Ljubicic cruises into semis

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INDIAN WELLS, California, May 19 – Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic rallied to beat Juan Monaco 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Indian Wells ATP Masters 1000.

A day after his victory over world number two Novak Djokovic, Ljubicic showed no sign of a letdown.

The former world number three, now ranked 26th in the world, scattered 11 aces through the one hour, 47 minute contest on Thursday, finishing it off with three service winners.

"I really played some great tennis, and I felt really creative out there," Ljubicic said. "I played all different shots: lobs, dropshots, volleys, winners, slices. I felt I could hit the ball anywhere.

"I was a little bit upset after I lost that service game in the first set," Ljubicic added of the loose game that saw him go down 4-3. "Cost me the whole set. It was really the only bad game that I played in the whole match."

"But I was lucky enough to be able to break him early in the second, which was really important to relax and keep playing my game."

Ljubicic, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Friday, improved on his best 2010 performance to date – a quarter-final run at Dubai last month. The last time he made it as far as the semi-finals in a prestigious Masters 1000 event was in Miami in 2007, and the last time he reached the semis of any ATP event was at Lyon last October – where he went on to win his ninth career title.

"It’s good," Ljubicic said. "I got a phone call from my brother just after the match. He said that Croatian time zone I finish just a couple seconds before birthday, so it’s fantastic.

"It’s a great win and a great present to have a day off just before the semi-finals."

In the semi-finals Ljubicic will face either defending champion and third seed Rafael Nadal or Czech Tomas Berdych, who were to square off on Thursday night.

Nadal has won six of his nine career meetings with Berdych, his most recent victory coming in Spain’s 5-0 triumph over Czech Republic in the 2009 Davis Cup final.

Berdych has had a solid start to the season, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane and quarter-finals in San Jose and Memphis. Nadal said the Czech’s third- and fourth-round results here – quick straight-sets wins over Fernando Verdasco and Victor Troicki – showed he was playing well.

"It’s going to be a really difficult match," Nadal predicted.

Nadal is playing his first tournament since retiring with a knee injury trailing Andy Murray in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

"I am playing well," Nadal said after withstanding 22 aces from American John Isner in the fourth-round. "It’s very good news for me after the injury to come back and play like this."

In women’s action, sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic led the way into the semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Russian Alisa Kleybanova.

Jankovic will face the winner of the night match between eighth-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia and Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

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