Mon, Aug 03, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Nadal sets up rematch with Fognini

FAMILIAR FOE:Fabio Fognini has beaten Rafael Nadal twice already this season, while John Isner and Marcos Baghdatis were due to lock horns at the Atlanta Open

AFP, HAMBURG, Germany

Spain’s Rafael Nadal watches the ball against Andreas Seppi of Italy in their bet-at-home Open singles semi-final in Hamburg, Germany, on Saturday.

Photo: EPA

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.”

ATLANTA OPEN

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.”

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