Nadal roars into Aca­pulco fi­nal, to face Quer­rey

New Straits Times - - Sport -

Two-time cham­pion Rafael Nadal raced past third­seeded Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-2 to reach the ATP Mex­ico Open fi­nal, where his per­fect Aca­pulco record will be put to the test by Sam Quer­rey.

Quer­rey ousted Nick Kyr­gios 36, 6-1, 7-5 to bring the sixth-seeded Aus­tralian’s gi­ant-killing run to a halt a day af­ter Kyr­gios stunned World No 2 No­vak Djokovic in straight sets.

Sec­ond-seeded Nadal, play­ing his first tour­na­ment since fall­ing to Roger Fed­erer in an epic five-set fi­nal at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, has won all 14 matches he has played in Aca­pulco, where he lifted the tro­phy in 2005 and 2013.

Nadal roared through the open­ing set against Cilic, build­ing a 5-0 lead be­fore the for­mer US Open cham­pion, who ad­vanced to the semi-fi­nals on a walkover when sched­uled op­po­nent Steve John­son with­drew, showed signs of life with a ser­vice hold for 5-1.

Croa­tia’s Cilic seized a 0-40 lead on Nadal in the next game, but the Spa­niard saved four break points to hold for the open­ing set.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing treat­ment on his right an­kle, Cilic promptly dropped his serve to open the sec­ond set, and while he mus­tered break chances in each of Nadal’s first three ser­vice games of the sec­ond set, he couldn’t con­vert.

Nadal, fir­ing on all cylin­ders from the base­line, mus­cled two winners past Cilic as he broke again for a 5-2 lead and served it out with one last fore­hand win­ner.

“I have to be play­ing well to win like this against a player like Marin, so I’m pleased with the per­for­mance,” said Nadal, who with­drew from last month’s tour­na­ment in Rot­ter­dam af­ter doc­tors told him he needed some rest af­ter his run to the fi­nal in Mel­bourne.

Quer­rey and Kyr­gios were neck and neck in the third set when the Amer­i­can pro­duced the first break of the set in the fi­nal game to seize the vic­tory.

Quer­rey had saved the only break point he faced in the set with a 135 mile per hour serve in the fifth game.

Kyr­gios, 21, had ap­peared on his way when he closed out the first set by win­ning four straight games.

But af­ter lead­ing 40-15 in the open­ing game of the sec­ond set he was bro­ken, and sud­denly seemed at sea and Quer­rey took the set in just 23 minutes as Kyr­gios’ mis­takes mul­ti­plied.

A med­i­cal time­out for court­side treat­ment on his right el­bow seemed to help, and Kyr­gios didn’t face a break point in the third un­til the fi­nal game.

Then a back­hand wide from the Aus­tralian sud­denly gave Quer­rey two match points, and he belted a fore­hand win­ner on the first.

The vic­tory con­tin­ued a strong week for Quer­rey, who beat Bel­gian David Gof­fin and fourth-seeded de­fend­ing cham­pion Do­minic Thiem en route to the semis.

“Sam is play­ing great, beat­ing Gof­fin and Thiem. He’ll be com­ing into the match with a lot of con­fi­dence,” said Nadal, who has won all four of his prior meet­ings with Quer­rey.

A vic­tory would give the Spa­niard his first hard court ti­tle since Qatar in 2014.

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