Nadal thrills Madrid crowd with second-set comeback victory

May 16th, 2009 - 2:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Rafael Nadal Madrid, May 16 (DPA) Rafael Nadal made a smooth recovery from two breaks down in the second set to overhaul Spanish rival Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 7-5 for a place in the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters.
The number one, who has won his last 32 clay contests dating back a year, injected a dose of drama into the proceedings at the Magic Box arena Friday.

Verdasco, who took his compatriot to the limit four months ago in an Australian Open semi-final, saved a pair of match points before eventually falling to defeat in just under two hours.

“I thought at that moment that I had to play a bit better and get confidence for a possible third set,” said Nadal.

“I played really bad in the moment. But he played a bad game at 4-1, and I started to play better. It was a good comeback. It’s always exciting to play Novak, but I’ll need the support of the Madrid crowd.”

Nadal will next face a familiar rival in Novak Djokovic, after the Serb third seed posted a handy 6-4, 6-4 result over Croatian Ivan Ljubicic.

Andy Murray turned 22 aiming to beat fifth seed Juan Del Potro in their concluding quarter-final. But his dream was crushed in a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 defeat.

Nadal’s victory was his 32nd in a row on clay, as he aims to lift Madrid after capturing Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome over the last month, with two of those three finals played against Djokovic.

Roger Federer found little fault in his game despite taking three sets to defeat Andy Roddick 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1.

“It’s a bit strange, frankly, to be playing Andy on clay,” said second-seeded, 13-time Grand Slam winner Federer.

“It was a close match with good atmosphere, good weather. Andy was mixing his serve well, and I came up with some nice points. Those make me happy. I’m pleased with how I played today. I should have won in straights, but that’s what happens sometimes when you play Andy. I bounced back in the third and played well.”

Roddick has lost in 18 of 20 meetings stretching to 2001 in Federer’s Basel hometown.

“All in all it was pretty good preparation and hopefully it can get better too. I have definitely felt worse going into the French Open before,” said Roddick, making his season debut on clay, which he will not touch again for a year once the French Open is finished.

The US player won his last match in the series in March 2008 in Miami and has already lost to Federer three times in 2009.

Roddick had a walkover in the third round and plenty of extra rest as he begins his clay season after Nikolay Davydenko withdrew with a leg injury.

Federer needed just over two hours to put away Roddick and actually out-aced - by 12 to nine - the American known for his serve.

The Swiss missed a chance to take it away in two sets, losing a tiebreak lead and ending up in a third. But he broke to start the final set and piled on the pressure to put Roddick away in the end with 43 winners and four breaks of serve.

Federer said that fitness will not be an issue in the semi-final, even if Murray and Del Potro stay up late.

“It’s only best of three sets, and neither of them played last week, and they also got byes in the first round,” he said. “It’s not that hot - I didn’t even have to change my shirt today even if the sun was out. Down there it was perfect condition. It will come down to who plays best.”

In the women’s event, former number one Amelie Mauresmo continued her 2009 resurgence as she fought into the last four with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 defeat of Hungarian Agnes Szavay.

The French veteran will next face Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki, the ninth seed, who beat Russian Vera Dushevina 6-0, 6-4 and will climb into the WTA top 10 for the first time prior to the start of the French Open.

Top seed Dinara Safina will play in a third semi in as many weeks after defeating Alona Bondarenko of the Ukraine 6-4, 6-3. She faces Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder, a winner against fourth seed Jelena Jankovic 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

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