Nadal one win from 10th ti­tle

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal moved to within one win of a 10th Barcelona ti­tle on Satur­day when he swept past Ar­gentina’s Ho­ra­cio Ze­bal­los 6-3, 6-4 in the semi­fi­nals of the clay court event.

World No 5 Nadal, who cap­tured a 10th Monte Carlo Mas­ters last week­end, faced Do­minic Thiem in the fi­nal late yes­ter­day af­ter the Aus­trian stunned World No 1 Andy Mur­ray 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

Nadal, 30, who played in his 106th ca­reer fi­nal yes­ter­day, won the Barcelona ti­tle in 2005-09, 2011-13 and 2016.

De­spite his straight sets win, on a cen­tre court which is named af­ter him, Nadal was far from pleased with his week’s work in the Cata­lan cap­i­tal where rain has made the con­di­tions heavy.

“In weeks like this, the one who man­ages to cope with the con­di­tions we’ve had, which have been sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent (than nor­mal), is the one that sur­vives,” said the Spa­niard.

“They aren’t the best con­di­tions for me and against Ze­bal­los it wasn’t easy at all.

“He took me out of my com­fort zone, par­tic­u­larly in the first few shots of the rally which is what did dam­age.”

Thiem fired 41 win­ners and six aces as the fourth seed ad­vanced to his 12th ATP World Tour fi­nal with a first win over Mur­ray.

“It’s the first win over a World No 1, so it’s re­ally some­thing spe­cial,” said Thiem.

“For me per­son­ally, it’s the best vic­tory this year so far.

“I went down in the third set when he broke me in the first game. But the way I came back men­tally was a huge step for­ward to­day.”

Mur­ray squeezed past Al­bert Ramos-Vi­no­las in a three-hour en­counter on Fri­day and looked flat-footed as Thiem roared through the open­ing set with three breaks of serve in just over half an hour.

How­ever, hav­ing ac­cepted a late wild­card to play in Barcelona, Mur­ray be­lieves the match prac­tice will do him good with Mas­ters se­ries events in Madrid and Rome to come ahead of next month’s French Open. AFP

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