Rafael Nadal’s run of 10 consecutive years of winning atleast one title on European clay in the lead up to the French Open was brought to an end by the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka on Friday at the Internazional BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Wawrinka had beaten Nadal to claim his maiden grand slam title at the Australian Open 2014 in Melbourne. Following losses at Monte Carlo (lost to Djokovic), Barcelona (loss to Fognini) and Madrid (loss to Murray) the nine time French Open champion (2005-08 & 2010-14) is now 25-8 in 2015 with his lone win coming at Buenos Aires ATP 250 in February.
In the opening set both players traded service breaks twice and Nadal jumped to a 6-2 lead in the ensuing tie-break only for Wawrinka to claim the next five, finally sealing it 9-7 on his second set point. The eighth seeded Wawrinka than had two breaks of serve in the second set but had to save four break points at 4-1 and one more at 5-2 when serving for match which he won 7-6(7),6-2 in 2 hours 5 minutes to set up a mouth watering semi-final against fellow Swiss and world number two Roger Federer who had a surprisingly easy 6-3,6-3 in just over 1 hour against the Czech Tomas Berdych. Wawrinka the winner in Chennai and Rotterdam this year had not won back to back matches since February made it 3 wins in Rome where he has been a finalist in 2008 (loss to Djokovic). The three time runner up Federer, 2003( loss to Mantilla) and 2006 & 2013 ( loss to Nadal) has three titles this year at Brisbane, Dubai and Istanbul.
Earlier in the day the Spaniard David Ferrer, the winner this year in Doha, Rio de Janeiro and Acapulco had a 6-2,4-6,6-1 win over the unseeded Belgian David Goffin who was playing his first Masters quarter-final after saving three match points to Jo Wilfred Tsonga and walkover from Andy Murray. Ferrer next plays the world number one Novak Djokovic, the winner of the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo who beat the Memphis and Barcelona winner Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-3,3-6,6-1.
The semi final line up with my picks mentioned first with their 2015 records and head to head is :-
Novak Djokovic (1) (33-2) v. David Ferrer (7) (32-6); Djokovic leads 14-5.
Roger Federer (2) (24-4) v. Stanislas Wawrinka (7) (21-6) ; Federer leads 15-2.
Djokovic who skipped Madrid this year has dropped a set in all the three matches in Rome and it would need a more solid performance against the veteran Spaniard for the Serb to reach the final which would give him chance to win his 24th Masters title. A win for Ferrer would make him only the 12th player in Open Era to register 300 match wins on clay. In the all Swiss Final Federer will need to be razor sharp like he was today against Berdych to reach the final which would give him a shot at his maiden Rome crown and also 24th Masters 1000 title.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]