Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Nadal makes Paris final, boosts Richard Gasquet

AFP , PARIS

Rafael Nadal stands one win away from a victory double in the capital after helping Frenchman Richard Gasquet claim the last available place in the season-ending Masters Cup.

Nadal's 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 Paris Masters victory on Saturday over stylish Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis boosted Gasquet into the last spot in the eight-man year-end showdown in Shanghai starting next Sunday.

Baghdatis had also been chasing the place at the season-wrapup, but needed a title victory and a Gasquet defeat in the semi-finals.

"I know I did him a big favor, but he deserves it," Baghdatis said. "He played the whole year good, he's playing big tennis. You cannot say it's luck. It's people who deserve it, I think he does."

Nadal was to line up yesterday against on-form Argentine David Nalbandian, who defeated China-bound Gasquet 6-2, 6-4 in their semi-final and proved that his Madrid indoor trophy a fortnight ago over Roger Federer was no fluke.

"I think I played incredible, perfect, almost perfect until the 5-2 in the second set. I would be playing perfect if I finished in that moment," a delighted Nalbandian said. "There is always something to improve."

Looking forward to the final, Nalbandian admitted the slow court may play into Nadal's hands.

"Here the court is a little different than Madrid. It's a little slow, and maybe a little bit better for him," he said. "But I'm playing good, with confidence. We should have a very good match tomorrow [yesterday]."

Nadal has compiled a perfect 25-0 record in the City of Light, winning the last three editions of Roland Garros on clay and showing top form at the Bercy arena in his debut career main draw appearance.

"This city is special for me," the world No. 2 said. "For me to play the final here in indoor is not easy. Paris gives me good luck right now."

The last man to do the Paris double was Andre Agassi in 1999.

The 25th-ranked Nalbandian owns a 1-0 record against Nadal after stopping the Spaniard at home in the Madrid quarter-finals.

"It was my first tournament after a month-and-a-half," Nadal said. "Nalbandian was playing very well -- it was a disaster match for me. You have one per year like that -- and this was mine."

Nadal stands second in the field for the eight-man wrap-up event in Shanghai behind Federer, both clinching places months ago.

Others who will contest for year-end honors are Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick, David Ferrer, Fernando Gonzalez and Gasquet.

"My expectation is only to play well," Nadal said of his match with Nalbandian. "I said before this tournament, that my goal is to play well and finish the season with good feelings."

Nadal rallied after going down a set and a break against Baghdatis, leveling at a set each and breaking early in the third to insure his trip to the final.

Unseeded American Lindsay Davenport outlasted Russian second seed Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 to reach the final of the WTA Bell Challenge and continue her storybook comeback on Saturday.

The 31-year-old Davenport was to square off against third seed Julia Vakulenko in yesterday's final of the US$175,000 indoor carpet tournament.

Davenport is seeking her second win in three tournaments since returning from a one-year hiatus to give birth.

She captured her 52nd career title at Bali, Indonesia.

For the 24-year-old Vakulenko this marks her first WTA final.

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