Rafael Nadal was back to his best yesterday, playing at Wimbledon for the fifth consecutive day and reaching the semi-finals by beating No. 7 Tomas Berdych 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-2.
Nadal, last year's runner-up, was broken once early in the first set, but never faced any serious challenges after that.
Nadal had his first match point on Berdych's serve at 5-1 in the third set, but the Czech erased it with an ace. Nadal wasted another in the next game, but won when Berdych sent a forehand into the net.
"I had to concentrate with the movement because the ball was very difficult to touch," Nadal said. "Today was very tough with the wind, but anyway I played very good."
Nadal, who had come from two five-set victories including a rain-hit third-round match that spanned three days, turned on the power as soon as the first set went into a tiebreak, going 5-0 up before clinching it 7-1 after 58 minutes.
The Spaniard, showing the sort of grasscourt tennis that helped him recover from two sets down in Thursday's fourth round win over Russian Mikhail Youzhny, was in almost total control from then on.
He was not afraid to come to the net where he put away 14 out of 16 volleys and broke Berdych in the opening games of each of the next two sets and again in the fifth game of the decider.
Nadal, who lost to Federer in last year's final, is trying to become the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980. The Spaniard has won the last three titles at Roland Garros.
Berdych was playing in the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam for the first time. He won the grass-court warm-up tournament in Halle, Germany, in the absence of Federer, but struggled yesterday with several bad hops. In the final game, a serve from Nadal took another awkward bounce that went toward his body.
In yesterday's women's semi-finals, Venus Williams was due to face French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic, the No. 6-seeded Serb, who saved three match points to get past No. 14 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
"Coming in here, I didn't expect this," the 19-year-old Ivanovic said. "Venus is a great player. She is playing so good the last couple of matches. It's going to be very tough for me."
Serving while down 5-3 in the final set, Ivanovic faced match point three times. She saved the first with a big forehand into a corner that forced an errant forehand from Vaidisova, and the second with a clean forehand winner. On the third, Vaidisova dumped a return into the net, beginning a stretch in which Ivanovic won 13 of 15 points thanks to aggressive play.
"I like to take risks," Ivanovic said. "I didn't want to wait and see if she's going to make a mistake or not. I just wanted to take this in my hands and make the shots."
Ivanovic hadn't so much as set foot in the tournament's main stadium until Thursday morning. She went to watch two games of Williams-Kuznetsova, she said, "so I could get a little feel" for the place before facing Vaidisova.
The other semi-final was due to feature Justine Henin and Marion Bartoli. They won quarter-finals on Wednesday, when Henin beat Serena Williams and Bartoli eliminated Michaella Krajicek.
Henin, twice a runner-up at the All England Club, is trying to complete a career Grand Slam. Bartoli, meanwhile, never had been beyond the third round at any major until reaching the quarter-finals last month at Roland Garros.
"Even if on paper I'm going to be the favorite,"Henin said, "it's going to be another kind of story on the court."
Venus Williams, for her part, was far less cautious. Asked whom she considers the favorite for the title, her face lit up.
"Now why would I say anyone else?" Williams said, her grin wide as can be. "Come on."
Indeed, despite all of her health problems over the years -- an abdominal tear, wrist and knee injuries, and the list goes on -- she nearly always seems to find her footing at Wimbledon. The slick grass makes her fast serves seem even faster, her strong groundstrokes seem even stronger.
After being two points from defeat against a 59th-ranked opponent in the first round, then double-faulting 14 times and trailing 5-3 in the third set against a 71st-ranked foe in the third Williams has improved dramatically.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
Former MLB pitcher Wang Wei-chung has signed the biggest contract with a local team in Taiwan’s professional baseball history, the Wei Chuan Dragons said yesterday. The 28-year-old left-hander signed a five-year US$2.08 million contract with the Dragons, team chairman Hsu Wen-fang told a news conference. It is the biggest contract in the CPBL’s 31-year history, surpassing a three-year, US$1.36 million deal Lin Chih-sheng signed in 2016 with the CTBC Brothers. Although the overall value of Wang’s deal set a new record, his average monthly salary of NT$990,000 (US$33,886) is lower than Lin’s pay of NT$1.2 million per month in 2017
TAIWANESE TO PLAY: Jason Jung faces Frederico Coria in the men’s singles first round today, while in the women’s singles, Hsieh Su-wei is to take on Barbara Haas Novak Djokovic is to renew his love-hate relationship with Roland Garros in the knowledge that it is himself rather than seemingly unsettled 12-time champion Rafael Nadal who could pose the greatest threat to winning a second Paris title and 18th Grand Slam crown. The only man to beat Djokovic this year is Djokovic after the Serb’s hair-trigger temper prompted a sensational disqualification from the US Open. The 33-year-old arrives in the French capital with a 31-1 record this year after his New York brain-fade was followed by a record 36th Masters title in Rome. Djokovic’s 2016 triumph at Roland Garros allowed him to