Shanghai - World number one Novak Djokovic marched into the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters on Friday, overcoming David Ferrer 6-4, 6-2 as he vies for his third successive title.
The Serbian world number one joins Gilles Simon of France and Spaniard Feliciano Lopez and with Roger Federer in the last four.
Djokovic broke his Spanish opponents serve in the first game, but was given a scare as he was serving to take the first set with the scores at 5-4 in his favour.
Ferrer, who dumped out Britain's Andy Murray in the quarters, saved three set-points against the top seed in Shanghai before earning two break points.
But Djokovic snuffed out the challenge and finally closed the marathon 12 minute game at the net, pumping his fists with relief as the crowd roared.
He was more dominant in the second set, breaking fifth seed Ferrer again at his first attempt before gaining a 5-2 lead with his next break and closing out the match in one hour 24 minutes.
Simon continued his great run in Shanghai by overwhelming Tomas Berdych in a scintillating final, his second top-10 scalp in three days.
The world number 29 won 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-0 to enter his second successive semi-final, after also making the last four in Tokyo last week where he lost to Milos Raonic.
Simon, 29, is yet to win a Masters title but he is in a rich vein of form and overpowered Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka on Wednesday in Shanghai.
Berdych, meanwhile, reached last week's China Open final and he arrived at the Shanghai quarter-finals without even facing a break point.
But the tournament's sixth seed, ranked seventh in the world, was given a rude awakening when Simon broke his serve in the first game.
The Czech, however, appeared well in control of his serving game thereafter, firing 12 aces throughout the set.
Berdych broke back in the third game to draw level and an increasingly frustrated Simon shouted at himself after misfiring in a tense game which brought the scores to 6-6.
But his bout of self-criticism appeared to work, as the former world number six raced to a 5-2 lead in the tie-break and sealed the set with a powerful cross-court groundstroke.
The pair were evenly matched in the second set but with the scores at 4-4, Berdych got his chance to break as he tussled with Simon on deuce.
Berdych drew boos when he appeared to berate a ball-girl for being slow to bring his towel. But he then seized the break and closed the following game, and the set, with an ace.
However, he went missing in the decider as Simon took it effortlessly 6-0, helped by Berdych's uncharacteristic double fault to hand over the second break, which prompted gasps from the crowd.
"I feel my tennis is coming back from the last, I would say, two months," Simon said after his victory.
"I'm finding a better rhythm. I feel also physically stronger. I have less injuries. So, I mean, it's a bit easier to go on the court.
"But still Tomas is a great player. He's always hard to beat. I think I almost played the perfect match today.
The 29-year-old will fancy his chances against Lopez of Spain in the semi-finals.
The world number 21 beat Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a thrilling match between two thirty-something players.
Lopez appeared to be heading for defeat a set down and losing 4-2 in the second set, but he came back brilliantly, breaking Youzhny in his final two service games to set up a decider.
The 33-year-old was then forced to endure a horror game as he appeared in control, serving for the match at 5-3 ahead.
His 32-year-old opponent forced two break points before sealing the game at his third attempt in the most unlikely circumstances - with Lopez double-faulting.
But Lopez quickly regained his composure to win the next game and overcome his 35th-ranked opponent, much to his relief.
"I went very aggressive," Lopez said, explaining his double fault.
"The game after I made the break. I break him back. I was a little bit lucky."
A host of big names are already out, including Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.Shanghai Masters results on Friday:
Gilles Simon (FRA) bt Tomas Berdych (CZE x6) 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-0
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) bt Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt David Ferrer (ESP x5) 6-4, 6-2
Roger Federer (SUI) bt Julien Benneteau (FRA) 7-6 (7/4), 6-0