10/5/12 6:16 PM | Ricky Dimon
Novak Djokovic is two wins away from his third Beijing title. Standing in his way during semifinal action on Saturday is Florian Mayer.
Novak Djokovic and Florian Mayer will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers when they battle for a place in the final of the China Open on Saturday night.
Djokovic has won both of their previous encounters, including one on a hard court. After getting a walkover from Mayer at the 2010 Rotterdam event, Djokovic cruised 7-5, 6-1 last season in Dubai. They most recently faced each other this summer in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, with the Serb dominating 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
This is traditionally a productive time of year for Mayer, who hammered Rafael Nadal en route to the 2011 Shanghai Masters quarterfinals. The 29th-ranked German is rounding into form in Beijing, where he has taken out Fabio Fognini, Marius Copil, and Ze Zhang. Mayer is finally at .500 for his 2012 campaign at 22-22.
It has been an amazing draw for the unseeded Mayer, but that all changes now. Djokovic, of course, is the No. 1 seed and two-time champion of this tournament. He got off to a slow start by needing three sets to beat Michael Berrer, but he has since destroyed Carlos Berlocq and Jurgen Melzer. Djokovic is 63-11 for the season.
"I have stepped up at least a level in each match that I have played here," the world No. 2 assured. "But I am trying to be more aggressive and to have more efficiency on my serve. (The match vs. Melzer) is one of the best serving matches I have had in my career, so that's a positive sign.
"I know I'm the favorite in the match and obviously expected to go to the finals. But I cannot underestimate any opponent. He's there for a reason, so I will try to focus and win."
Mayer is capable of catching fire, as his recent Wimbledon run and last year's win over Nadal suggest. But there is no reason to think he will have enough to trouble Djokovic in this one. Count on Djokovic rolling in straight sets.
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