(1)Novak Djokovic d. (3)Roger Federer 6-2, 7-6(4) [ 1:39 h ]
Their first meeting since the 5-set thriller at the US Open last year where Djokovic saved a match point with an incredible return. There were parallel emotions this time in the latter stages of the semifinal, the things concluded in two sets though. The Serb held his first service game after a couple of ‘deuces’ and received a strong support from the crowd chanting “Nole! Nole!“. Apparently he is beloved in Rome. Perhaps this early signal of worshiping the best of the world, intimidated Federer a bit. He lost his serve in the following game and once again at 2:4. Djokovic’s return worked magnificently, many balls were landing on Federer’s weaker backhand side which allowed Djokovic to dictate the vast majority of rallies. The first break of the 2nd set came in the 7th game. Djokovic led 5:3 when the Roman crowd started to cheer for the Swiss. He responded with a forehand on the line facing a match point, withstood two pretty long rallies afterwards, and broke the No. 1 for the first time despite hadn’t had a break point prior to that game! Djokovic stayed cool, two months ago he experienced two similar situations in back-to-back matches in Miami. Since *5:6 (15/30) he won six straight points. Impressed especially in the first tie-breaker point as he prevailed a 25-stroke rally responding from both wings on Federer’s precisely placed shots (it was the only mini-break that night). 3:0, Fed cuts quickly to 3:2, 5:2 after another demanding rallies, 5:4 after Federer’s two hard serves. Forehand on the line and two more match points. The second one in that match was enough, Federer made a casual backhand error on the 4th stroke. Federer on tomorrow’s final: ‘‘It’s going to be an interesting one, especially after what happened in Monaco. Djokovic has pressure to defend his points and his title and Nadal wants to close the points gap with me.” If Nadal wins, he will be seeded No. 2 in Paris which is important because a player seeded No. 3 faces in his section of the draw one of tennis titans, whilst No. 2 opens a possibility to draw Murray.
(2)Rafael Nadal d. (6)David Ferrer 7-6(6), 6-0 [ 2:06 h ]
The 19th meeting between two best Spanish players – it’s one of the biggest rivalries of the Open era, sadly pretty lopsided. The older Spaniard usually loses, but thankfully has been one of very few players who are able to play competitive matches with Rafa on clay… Ferrer took an early initiative and almost throughout the 1st set optically was the better player, he was getting more points directly after the first serve, he was running less, producing more winners. But Nadal never gives up until he loses the final point, he came back twice from a 1:3 deficit (games, and tie-break), saved a break point at 3:4, and on three occasions was two points away from losing the set: *5:6 (30-all), *4:5 in the tie-break; the third occasion was crucial – Ferrer attacked the net with a good approach-shot (FDTL), then played a good drop-volley, efficient against 90% players on the tour, however, Nadal chased the ball quick as lightning and managed to make a passing-shot which clipped the line. It was the turning point of this semifinal clash. Recently in Barcelona, Ferrer lost two tight sets to Nadal, here was the third one in a row, and I assume a possibility to lose another tight set clipped Ferrer’s wings. He was just a fifth business in the 2nd set except the 4th game where he showed some timid signs of interest. “[It is the] best thing possible after a fantastic time in Barcelona and Monte-Carlo, to keep playing in a clay tournament and then being in the final without losing a set is something fantastic and I am happy,” declared Nadal. “Rome for me is an important tournament and I am here for the seventh time and I couldn’t have imagined this a few years ago.“
# Nadal’s most lopsided H2H’s:
13-1 Fernando Verdasco (+12) 15-4 David Ferrer (+11) 10-0 Richard Gasquet, Paul-Henri Mathieu (+10) 12-3 Tomas Berdych (+9) 18-10 Roger Federer (+8) 13-5 Andy Murray (+8) 8-0 Stanislas Wawrinka (+8)