Spaniards dominate French for Nadal-Verdasco semi-final

January 28th, 2009 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Rafael NadalMelbourne, Jan 28 (DPA) Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco stopped French opposition in superlative style Wednesday to send a pair of Spaniards into a showdown semi-final at the Australian Open.Last year’s fairytale finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ended up on the scrapheap after going down to surging Verdasco, hero of Spain’s Davis Cup final two months ago over Argentina, 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Top seed Nadal held on to stop Gilles Simon, the sixth seed, 6-2, 7-5, 7-5.

The two nations have won 36 Grand Slam titles between them. Frenchmen have won 21 titles but only one (Yannick Noah, 1983 Roland Garros) since Manuel Santana took the first of 15 Grand Slam titles won by Spanish men.

A Spanish man has never triumphed in Australia; Jean Borotra won France’s only title in 1928.

Nadal had his hands full with Simon, who beat the world number one in their last match in Madrid in October.

The Spaniard took the first set and saved a set point in the second, following up with a break of Simon to love and a game later securing a two sets to love margin.

The French struck in the third with a break for 3-3 to level after losing a serve early. But that was not enough to keep Nadal from victory on his first match point to stay unbeaten on sets.

“I came in with some doubts because he beat me in Madrid,” said Nadal. “Gilles has improved a lot from 2008. It’s always amazing to play the first big event of the year and reach the semi-finals.

“This is my second semi-final here. It’s incredible for Fernando and I to be in the semi-finals, with one to be in the final. We have to be happy for that. It will be a tough match.”

Tsonga, who started the event in doubt after a back injury scare the week before, was doomed not to repeat his storybook run to the title match in 2008 as he joined reigning champion Novak Djokovic, who lost a day earlier.

Tsonga fell to 14th-seeded Verdasco, hero of his nation’s Davis Cup title over Argentina two months ago and now in a Grand Slam semi- final for the first time in his 23rd major.

“I was feeling much better the third and the fourth than the first and second,” said Verdasco. “But I don’t think anything in this matchas easy.

“I know that I’m playing good,” said the winner over Scot Andy Murray. “I’m feeling good.

“Anyway, I’m in the semi-finals. I don’t have pain in any part of the body. I’m feeling pretty good. And that’s the most important thing.”

Tsonga said he was not bothered by the back pain which made him doubtful before the start of the event last week.

“Nothing was wrong, I think Fernando played better than me. He was more aggressive. He served better than me and that’s it.

“When you play a tennis match, there is a winner, and today it’s Fernando.”

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