Top seed Rafael Nadal won through to the final of the bet-at-home Open in Hamburg on Saturday with a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 semi-final win over Andreas Seppi of Italy.
Nadal, 29, was due to meet another Italian in yesterday’s final after world No. 32 Fabio Fognini beat French youngster Lucas Pouille 6-2, 7-6 (7/2) in the other last-four showdown.
Fognini, seeded eighth, is a familiar foe for the Spaniard, having already beaten Nadal twice this season in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.
For Nadal, it was to be the 96th final of his career and his third in Hamburg, where he last won the title in 2008 by beating Roger Federer.
“I will try to keep playing well and enjoy today’s [Saturday’s] victory,” said Nadal, who has endured a tough year in which he has lost his French Open title and slumped to his lowest ranking in a decade.
“These are important points for me — 300 points for my goal of qualifying for the World Tour Finals is important. Matches like today help to bring you your confidence and your motivation for what you are doing,” he said.
Nadal, the world No. 10, is now 25-6 on clay this season and was looking to extend his streak of having won at least one European clay-court title every year since 2004.
“From the beginning I played great, since the first game that I hit a few winners,” Nadal told the ATP Tour Web site. “I was very comfortable on court today, feeling the ball well, with top-spin to his backhand and then changing to his forehand down the line — a very important shot for me. In general it was a very positive match.”
“Every victory is important and this year, with the up and downs that I’ve had, obviously every improvement is important,” he said. “I played at a very high level. I’m very happy for that, playing with not many mistakes, very well with my backhand, very well with my forehand, hitting winners, changing speeds, changing directions. I think I played a great match.”
Big-serving John Isner of the US and Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus were due to meet in the final of the Atlanta Open yesterday after hard-fought three-set semi-final victories on Saturday.
Top seed Isner stayed on track for his third consecutive Atlanta title when he outlasted fellow American Denis Kudla in blazing heat on the outdoor hard courts.
Isner converted his second match point against the unseeded qualifier to triumph 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in 1 hour, 43 minutes.
The later semi-final was even closer, and longer, as fifth seed Baghdatis edged seventh seed Gilles Muller, of Luxembourg, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) in their finely balanced match.
Baghdatis served for the match at 6-5 in the third set, only to tighten up and allow Muller to force a deciding tiebreak.
“At 6-5, I have to be honest, I choked, but I was able to keep calm and find a way in the end, and I’m very happy about that,” Baghdatis told ESPN after winning every service point in the tiebreak.
A losing finalist at the 2006 Australian Open, he has four ATP Tour titles, but has not won a tournament since 2010 and would need to be near his best in his first final since 2011 to beat fellow 30-year-old Isner, against whom his career record is 0-5.
Isner, who also dropped the first set in his semi-final, said a more aggressive approach to returning serve in the second set had been the key to the victory.
“That 2-1 game in the second set turned the match around,” he said. “My shots found the court, I was able to break and it relaxed me a lot from there. When I’m up a break I tend to serve my best, because most of the time when I get one break I can take that set home.”
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
Neymar on Sunday claimed that he had been the victim of racism as he was one of five players sent off in a mass brawl at the end of Olympique de Marseille’s 1-0 win over Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. PSG’s Brazilian star appeared to accuse Alvaro Gonzalez of calling him a “monkey” in a series of furious tweets after he was sent off in stoppage-time for slapping the Marseille defender on the back of the head. “Look at the racism. That’s why I hit him,” Neymar, who was returning from COVID-19 quarantine, said as he left the pitch. “The only regret I