Nadal survives thriller to set up all-Spanish Rome finalMay 2nd, 2010 - 3:24 am ICT by IANS
Rome, May 2 (DPA) Rafael Nadal survived a nail-biting challenge from on-fire Latvian Ernests Gulbis, leaping for joy Saturday on the clay after squeezing out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory to secure his place in a fifth final at the Rome Masters.
“It was a really hard match, I didn’t play well,” Nadal said. “It was very difficult to play against Gulbis. His serve was unbelievable.”
The Spaniard, who has now won his last nine matches on the surface, will square off at the Foro Italico against compatriot David Ferrer, who overcame early nerves to defeat compatriot Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-3.
That loss denied Verdasco a third final in as many weeks after losing to Nadal in Monte Carlo and winning Barcelona over Robin Soderling.
The unseeded Gulbis, a 21-year-old ranked 40th, came close to stunning king of clay Nadal. The youngster had beaten Roger Federer in the second round and had his eye on a gold-plated double upset.
The upbeat Gulbis called it “a loss, but a good loss”.
“I’m happy with how I’m playing. I’m happy about all of my game,” he said.
“I really expected some more from Nadal. Once I lost my early nerves, I was really into the games and the rallies with him. In the end, I almost wish he had been serving instead of me. I made a few mistakes and maybe tried to win the points too quickly in the final game. But I feel I played well and I’m a threat in any event I play.”
Nadal dropped his first set of the year on clay as Gulbis roared back after losing the opener.
Nadal showed vivid emotion after securing his 26th Rome win against just one loss - to Juan Carlos Ferrero in the 2008 second round - pumping his fists, rushing around on the clay and celebrating a very narrow escape.
“I’m happy to win such a difficult match,” Nadal said. “My mental part was good for me today.”
The four-time French Open champion will bid to lift the trophy for the fifth time in the last six editions when he takes on Ferrer, over whom he owns a dominating 10-3 record after winning their last seven meetings.
Nadal needed two and three-quarter hours to go through on the first of three match points as Gulbis put a backhand wide to end a brave challenge filled with shotmaking and attack.
The rich kid from the Baltic, often branded a playboy, has turned over a new leaf this season, concentrating on his game and putting in the hard yards during training under Argentine coach Hernen Gumy. The effort paid off with a first title in February at Delray Beach, Florida.
The final will mark the third between Spaniards at the Masters 1000 level after Monte Carlo a fortnight ago and Hamburg in 2001.
Verdasco, seeded sixth, came to the court with kilometres in his legs after winning in more than three hours Friday over second seed Novak Djokovic.
After getting away 5-1, Verdasco’s pace slowed as the scrambling Ferrer was able to haul him in.
“I was playing nervous in the first set. I played very badly,” said the winner. “But I started feeling my shots a bit more and played better. I got more confidence as the match went on. I was able to relax more and play my game.”
Ferrer, the number 13 who lost a Rome semi five years ago to Nadal, was the fresher of the pair after a quick previous outing to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“Until the 5-1 things were going okay for me, and, also, he wasn’t playing his best and made some mistakes,” said Verdasco. “Later, perhaps he saw that i was tired - not from the 5-1 - but since i got up this morning.
“He started to play better and became more solid on the court, and what happened, happened.”
It was the third meeting in as many weeks for the two national rivals - a fortnight ago, Verdasco prevailed against Ferrer, winning a Monte Carlo semi-final and followed up with victory last week in the Barcelona third round.
A Spaniard will hold the Rome title for the eighth time in the last 10 years. During that stretch, Nadal won four titles in 2005-2007 and 2009. Carlos Moya won in 2004, Felix Mantilla in 2003 and Juan Carlos Ferrero 2001 claimed one.
- Nadal wins sixth Rome Masters title - May 21, 2012
- Gulbis win prevents Spanish sweep in Rome - May 01, 2010
- Nadal wins his seventh Barcelona Open title - Apr 30, 2012
- Nadal one win away from French Open title record - Jun 09, 2012
- Djokovic: Taking on Nadal in French Open final is ultimate challenge - Jun 09, 2012
- Nadal beats Youzhny to reach first US Open final - Sep 12, 2010
- Spain aims for fifth Davis Cup title - Dec 01, 2011
- Nadal, Djokovic eyeing history in French Open final (Lead) - Jun 09, 2012
- Nadal completes career Grand Slam with US Open victory (Lead) - Sep 14, 2010
- Easy win for Nadal, but Spaniard unhappy with surface in Madrid - May 10, 2012
- Supreme Nadal stops Federer in Madrid - May 17, 2010
- Djokovic overcomes Nadal to win US Open - Sep 13, 2011
- Clay king Nadal lifts emphatic fifth title in Paris (Lead) - Jun 06, 2010
- Toronto winner Murray put through the wringer by Chardy - Aug 19, 2010
- Nadal sweeps to second Wimbledon trophy with dream victory (Night Lead) - Jul 05, 2010
Tags: compatriot, david ferrer, ernests gulbis, fernando verdasco, fifth time, final game, fists, foro italico, french open, french open champion, juan carlos ferrero, narrow escape, nerves, rafael nadal, robin soderling, roger federer, rome masters, spaniard, unseeded, youngster