Djokovic routs Nadal, meets Mur­ray for fi­nal spot

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY DAVE JAMES

No­vak Djokovic crushed nine­time cham­pion Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 to move into the French Open semi­fi­nals Wed­nes­day, con­demn­ing the great Spa­niard to just his sec­ond de­feat in 72 matches at Roland Gar­ros.

It was world num­ber one and top seed Djokovic’s first win over de­fend­ing cham­pion Nadal in seven meet­ings in Paris, aveng­ing his de­feats in the 2012 and 2014 fi­nals.

It also eased Djokovic, who fired 45 win­ners to Nadal’s 16, closer to a first French Open ti­tle and a ca­reer Grand Slam.

He will play his 26th ma­jor semi­fi­nal on Fri­day against Bri­tish third seed Andy Mur­ray who saw off Spain’s 2013 run­ner-up David Fer­rer 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 to make the last four for the third time.

“I have great re­spect for Rafa, he’s a true cham­pion and it’s al­ways a plea­sure to play him,” said 28-year-old Djokovic af­ter wrap­ping up his 27th suc­ces­sive win this year.

“I knew I had to be ag­gres­sive and stay con­cen­trated on ev­ery point. That’s not easy to do against a man who had only lost once here in his ca­reer.

“It’s an in­cred­i­ble day, I am very happy and I want to con­tinue like this.”

For Nadal, it was a sober­ing way to mark his 29th birth­day with the com­pre­hen­sive loss plac­ing a se­ri­ous ques­tion mark over whether he will be able to achieve his dream of a 10th French Open crown.

The de­feat, just his sec­ond in Paris in a decade af­ter a fourthround exit to Robin Soder­ling in 2009, could also see him slip out of the world top 10 for the first time since 2005.

“I had my mo­ments, but he con- trolled most of the match. This can hap­pen when your op­po­nent plays bet­ter and is in bet­ter shape,” said Nadal.

“It’s not a big sur­prise that I didn’t win. I lost also in 2009 and to­day in 2015, but I hope to be back next year with an­other chance.”

In a marathon 67-minute first set in their 44th ca­reer meet­ing, Djokovic raced into a 4-0 lead, al­low­ing Nadal just four points.

But the sixth seed roared back to 4-4, fi­nally find­ing his range with his trusty fore­hand.

Nadal faced down three set points in the 10th game, also shrug­ging off a time warn­ing from um­pire Cedric Mourier for ex­ceed­ing the 20-sec­ond limit be­tween points.

Af­ter a 12-minute game, Nadal held for 5-5 and saved two more set points in the 12th game be­fore Djokovic sealed it with a low, sear­ing cross- courter which Nadal

could only push wide.

Un­der Siege

Djokovic con­tin­ued to have Nadal un­der siege in the sec­ond set, break­ing for 5-3. Nadal saved three set points in the ninth game, but he was pow­er­less on the fourth.

Djokovic set it up with a breath­tak­ing, no-look back­hand vol­ley and con­verted it into a two-set lead when Nadal net­ted an­other tired drive.

It was the first time in his ca­reer the Spa­niard had lost the first two sets of a French Open match.

He looked and played like a beaten man in the third set as Djokovic raced into a de­ci­sive 4-0 lead and the Serb claimed victory on Nadal’s sec­ond dou­ble fault of the tie.

Mur­ray made it 15 con­sec­u­tive wins on clay this year by beat­ing the num­ber seven seed Fer­rer.

“I was frus­trated at the end of the third set be­cause I had match points and it’s very dif­fi­cult to then play a full set more af­ter that,” said Mur­ray, the first Bri­tish player to reach the semi­fi­nals three times.

On the prospect of fac­ing Djokovic, he added: “It’s go­ing to be an ex­tremely tough match but I hope it’s a good one.

“I’m go­ing to need to play a high qual­ity match to have a chance.”

In a re­mark­able first set on Court Suzanne Len­glen there were six breaks of serve — three apiece — be­fore Mur­ray won it in a tiebreak.

Mur­ray took the sec­ond 6- 2, break­ing his op­po­nent twice, and looked set to go on and se­cure victory with the min­i­mum of fuss.

The Scot was 3-0 up in the third be­fore he let Fer­rer back in. First Mur­ray failed to con­vert a match point at 5-4 up on Fer­rer’s serve and then he was bro­ken in the next game as the Spa­niard forced a fourth set.

How­ever, he could not main­tain the fight­back and the 28-year-old Mur­ray ran away with the set, tak­ing it 6-1 to seal victory af­ter three hours, 16 min­utes.

AP

Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic re­turns in the quar­ter­fi­nal match of the French Open ten­nis tour­na­ment against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the Roland Gar­ros sta­dium, in Paris, Wed­nes­day, June 3.

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