Nadal feels good as he chases ninth Rome title

ROME • It was no surprise that Rafael Nadal will eventually reach his first clay-court final this season.

The King of Clay was in dominant form yesterday, as he swept past Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 at the Italian Open semi-finals to advance to today's final.

Nadal, an eight-time winner in Rome, had been stunned 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 by Tsitsipas, seeded eighth, at the Madrid Open semi-finals last weekend.

But the Spaniard took revenge by being clinical on the red clay of the Foro Italico, winning in 1hr 42min to maintain his record of having not dropped a set the whole week.

"I'm playing better every match, every weekend," the 32-year-old said, as reported by ESPN.

"Today, when I was hitting with my forehand, he didn't have the chance to respond, and this didn't happen last week.

"The most important thing is the feeling and I feel good now. I am very happy, a very important victory for me. But I am above all happy for the evolution of my game, and for the level of tennis I played."

Nadal, seeded second, was playing his fourth straight semi-final, but had not managed to go further on clay this season.

His previous title challenge this campaign was when he lost to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January.

With his win over Tsitsipas, he has also reached his 50th Masters final, equalling the record set by longtime rival Roger Federer.

Nadal, with a 21-5 record this season, will face either Djokovic or Argentinian Diego Schwartzman today as he bids for a ninth Italian Open title.

His run to the Rome final also comes just a week before he starts his assault on a 12th French Open title. The year's second Grand Slam tournament starts on May 26.

Meanwhile, world No. 11 John Isner on Friday withdrew from Roland Garros with a foot issue.

The 34-year-old, who has made the last 16 in Paris on three occasions, said he had not recovered from the injury he suffered at the Miami Masters in March when he finished runner-up to Federer.

Last month, world No. 8 Kevin Anderson announced he will also miss Roland Garros due to an elbow injury.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 19, 2019, with the headline 'Nadal feels good as he chases ninth Rome title'. Print Edition | Subscribe