Djokovic face Nadal in battle for No.2 in Hamburg tennis

May 17th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by admin  

Hamburg, May 17 (DPA) Rafael Nadal meets Novak Djokovic in the Hamburg Masters tennis tournament semi-finals Saturday where the winner earns the number two ranking in men’s tennis. Nadal kept second place at least Friday night when he beat his 11th-seeded mentor Carlos Moya 6-1, 6-3 in a Spanish quarter-final. Djokovic also wasted little time to make the final four when he ousted Spain’s Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-3.

Nadal has been the No.2 behind Swiss Roger Federer for a record 147 weeks since July 2005, but Djokovic has closed the gap this year with titles at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, and the Rome Masters last Sunday.

“It is always a better feeling to deserve it. It would make the match more special. But I try not to think about it as it adds extra pressure,” said Djokovic.

Nadal said: “It is not very special…It is not the same as if you play for number one.

“I know very well what it is to be number two. It would not be very bad if I lose. The important thing is that I am having a good season and am in the semi-finals here.”

Nadal leads their series 6-3 and has won all three matches between them on clay. Djokovic won their last match in April in the Indian Wells semis.

“There is no favourite,” said Nadal, who has lost just two of 108 clay court matches since April 2005. “He is the best of the season. He won Rome. I will have to play my best tennis.”

The other semi-final brings together world number one Roger Federer and unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi, who has never before gone that far at the Masters.

Federer remained on course towards a fifth Hamburg title with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, and like Nadal and Djokovic is yet to drop a set. Seppi beat German Nicolas Kiefer from 5-3 down in the final set, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, in a 3:13 hour marathon.

Djokovic dropped serve in the opening game against the 78th-ranked Montanes, but rebounded swiftly. The Serb won the last four games of the first set and the final three of the second, wrapping up matters in 1:16 hours with a service winner.

“I didn’t want to underestimate him but wanted to save energy for tomorrow (Saturday) as well. I have recovered well (from Rome),” said Djokovic, who did not have to complete his quarter- and semi-final in Rome due to injuries of his opponents.

“I have improved a lot this year. I have gained physical strength and mental experience. I feel at the top.”

Djokovic would have been number two Friday night had Nadal lost, but Nadal was never endangered by Moya and needed one minute less than Djokovic (1:15 hours) to win.

“I played a very good match against a good player. I moved the ball well and tried to attack all the time with my forehand,” said Nadal.

Federer had to fight hard early in the second set before securing victory in 1:20 hours with four unanswered games after the unseeded Verdasco had his right foot taped leading 3-2.

Verdasco said “I felt a sharp pain in my ankle in the fourth game,” the problems coming at an unfortunate time for him because “I was making him suffer at the time.”

Federer said: “It was a tough match, he is very talented. He can upset anyone on any surface. I had to adapt, get used to playing a leftie again. I got better the longer the match went.”

In a meeting of unseeded players, Seppi led Kiefer 6-3, 5-2. But Kiefer won the next five games to level the sets and also dominated the third to lead 5-3. Kiefer then failed to serve out the match at 5-4 as Seppi roared back to win with four unanswered games.

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