Sun, Jun 11, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Nadal eyes 10th title before final with Wawrinka

AFP and AP, PARIS

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns to Austria’s Dominic Thiem in their French Open men’s singles semi-final in Paris on Friday.

Photo: AFP

Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal on Friday powered into a record 10th French Open final and is to face 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka for the title after the Swiss outdueled Andy Murray in a five-set epic.

Nadal demolished Austrian pretender and sixth seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 to return to the final at Roland Garros for the first time since the last of his nine titles in 2014.

Wawrinka became the oldest finalist in Paris in 44 years with a thrilling 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 win over world No. 1 Murray.

“I’ve played a very good event, played well in all the matches and today was no exception,” said Nadal, who has lost just 29 games in reaching today’s championship match. “I started a bit more nervous, but then I played well.”

Nadal is bidding to become the first man to win 10 titles at a single Grand Slam and leads the head-to-head with Wawrinka 15-3.

“I always say the same, but it’s true. Nine or 10, it’s only 10 percent more. It’s true 10 is a beautiful number, nine is my favorite, but if I win it will become 10,” Nadal said.

However, he will be mindful of another upset after the Swiss stunned an injury-hit Nadal three years ago to claim the Australian Open crown.

“I have been playing a great event, but Stan is playing unbelievable,” said Nadal, who despite his imposing record has split the past six meetings with Wawrinka. “It will be a super hard final and I will need to play at my very best.”

Nadal withstood a shaky start before reeling off four games in succession to subdue Thiem, who was looking to be just the second Austrian finalist at a Grand Slam after 1995 French Open winner Thomas Muster.

Thiem is the only player to defeat Nadal on clay this season, but the fourth seed barely gave his rival a sniff and conceded just nine points in a chastening final set.

US Open champion Wawrinka, 32, triumphed in a pulsating 4 hour, 34 minute battle of shotmaking and endurance, and will target a fourth Grand Slam title this weekend.

For Murray, his wait to become Britain’s first men’s champion in Paris since Fred Perry in 1935 goes on.

Wawrinka is in no doubt as to the nature of the obstacle that stands in his way of a second Roland Garros triumph.

“I think to play Rafa on clay in French Open in a final is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis. He’s the best player ever on clay,” he said.

In women’s doubles, Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the US and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic are one victory away from their second French Open women’s doubles title and fifth major championship overall.

The top-seeded duo of Mattek-Sands and Safarova advanced to the final at Roland Garros by beating Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan and Martina Hingis of Switzerland 6-4, 6-2.

Mattek-Sands and Safarova won the French Open in 2015. They have also won two Australian Open titles, including in January, and last year’s US Open, meaning they are bidding for a third major trophy in a row.

In the final, they are to face the Australian pair of Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua, who eliminated Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 7-

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