Top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat third-seeded Roger Federer 6-2, 7-6 (4) Saturday to set up a showdown with Rafael Nadal in the final of the Italian Open on clay in Rome.
Djokovic met Federer for the first time since saving two match points in a five-set victory in the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open. Djokovic, who will turn 25 on Tuesday, trails the 30-year-old Federer 14-11 in their head-to-head series but has won five of the last six matches.
Federer has never won the Italian Open, falling in the final to Felix Mantilla of Spain in 2003 and Nadal in 2006 (7-6 in the fifth set).
For the eighth straight year, either Djokovic or Nadal will win the tournament. They will meet today in a match televised live by Tennis Channel at 7 a.m. PDT and repeated at 11:30 a.m., 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Nadal has won the title five times and Djokovic twice. Today's encounter will be a rematch of last year's final, which Djokovic won 6-4, 6-4.
Nadal, 25, leads the overall series 17-14 (10-2 on clay) and is 1-1 against Djokovic this year. Djokovic prevailed 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 5 hours, 53 minutes in the Australian Open final, the longest Grand Slam title match in history. Nadal then ended a seven-match losing streak to Djokovic with a 6-3, 6-1 victory last month for his eighth straight Monte Carlo title, but the Serb was grieving his grandfather's death at the time.
“Rafa is the player I've played against the most in my career," Djokovic said on atpworldtour.com. "We're all aware of his qualities on this surface, which suits him the best. I'll try to prepare myself. Physically, I'm feeling good, and I'm motivated as always, so I hope for the best.”
NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga. -- It's bad enough that both remaining Northern California women's teams were knocked out of the NCAA Championships on Saturday. Worse yet, they lost to Pacific-12 Conference rivals from Southern California.
No. 4 USC eliminated No. 5 Stanford 4-2, and No. 1 UCLA ousted No. 9 Cal 4-1. For the first time in three years, the Cardinal (21-2) won't play in the final. Stanford won the 2010 title in Athens and lost to Florida last year at Stanford.
The top four teams in the rankings will meet in Monday's semifinals. The Bruins (25-2) will face the Women of Troy (24-3), and No. 2 Florida (25-1) will take on third-ranked Duke (28-2).
With Stanford and USC tied 2-2, the Women of Troy survived three-set battles at No. 2 and No. 3 singles to clinch the overall victory. Danielle Lao, ranked 19th, outlasted No. 5 Mallory Burdette 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 at the second position, then No. 26 Sabrina Santamaria edged No. 25 Stacey Tan, last year's NCAA runner-up, 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (5).
Cal's point came from Zsofi Susanyi at No. 2 singles. Susanyi, ranked 13th, routed McCall Jones, ranked 98th, 6-2, 6-1, but the Bears ended their season at 20-7.
2. No. 24 Tan/Tsay (STAN) d. No. 49 Pulido/Scandalis (USC) 8-5.
3. No. 75 Lao/Ramos (USC) d. Ahn/Li (STAN) 8-6.
Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3
2. No. 19 Danielle Lao (USC) d. No. 5 Mallory Burdette (STAN) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
3. No. 26 Sabrina Santamaria (USC) d. No. 25 Stacey Tan (STAN) 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (5).
4. Kristie Ahn (STAN) vs. No. 89 Kaitlyn Christian (USC) abandoned.
5. Gabriella DeSimone (USC) d. No. 74 Ellen Tsay (STAN) 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.
6. Veronica Li (STAN) d. Valeria Pulido (USC) 6-4, 7-5.
Order of Finish: 1, 5, 6, 2, 3
2. No. 9 Dolehide/Montez (UCLA) def. No. 5 Goransson/Schutting (CAL); 8-4
3. Jones/Seguso (UCLA) def. Duranteau/Estlander (CAL); 8-4
Order of finish: 3, 2* (UCLA wins doubles point)
2. No. 13 Zsofi Susanyi (CAL) def. No. 98 McCall Jones (UCLA) 6-2, 6-1.
3. No. 73 Pamela Montez (UCLA) def. No. 30 Anett Schutting (CAL) 6-3, 6-4.
4. No. 124 Skylar Morton (UCLA) def. No. 48 Tayler Davis (CAL) 6-1, 6-4.
5. No. 119 Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) vs. No. 67 Annie Goransson (CAL) 6-1, 5-2 DNF.
6. Carling Seguso (UCLA) def. Alice Duranteau (CAL) 6-2, 6-4.
Order of finish: 4, 2, 6, 3*
Monday -- NCAA Division I Team Championships, men's and women's semifinals, Athens, Ga.
Tuesday -- NCAA Division I Team Championships, men's and women's finals, Athens, Ga.
Wednesday-May 28 -- NCAA Division I Singles and Doubles Championships, men and women, Athens, Ga.
May 27-June 3 -- $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger, Gold River Racquet Club, 2201 Gold Rush Drive, Gold River.
MAY 27-JUNE 10 -- FRENCH OPEN.
June 2-10 -- $15,000 Sacramento Men's Futures, Park Terrace Swim & Tennis Club, 5500 Parkfield Court, Sacramento.
June 9-10, 16-18 -- NorCal 18 Junior Sectional Championships, Sacramento State.
June 9-17 -- $15,000 Chico Men's Futures, Chico Racquet Club & Resort, 1629 Manzanita Ave.
JUNE 25-JULY 8 -- WIMBLEDON.
July 7-15 -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford.
July 9 -- World TeamTennis, Sacramento Capitals' season opener at Boston, 4 p.m.
July 12 -- World TeamTennis, Capitals' home opener (with Mardy Fish) vs. Kansas City, Sunrise Marketplace Stadium, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m.