Nadal overwhelms Gasquet to reach Rome final


A dominant Rafael Nadal broke Richard Gasquet’s resolve and eased into the Rome Masters final with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over the 16th seed here on Saturday.Taking an 8-0 record against Gasquet into this match, the world number one survived some nervous moments in the first set before completing a comprehensive win with a lop-sided second set. It took the Spanish 24-year-old’s record at this tournament to 31 wins and just one loss — in 2008 against Juan-Carlos Ferrero — as he aims for a sixth title in seven years here. Having suffered from a fever earlier in the week, Nadal showed no ill effects as he set up a final meeting against either world number two Novak Djokovic or number four Andy Murray.
But the prospect of facing Djokovic, so far unbeaten this year, is not one that Nadal is relishing. “I’m not going to be stupid, I prefer to play Murray,” admitted Nadal. “Djokovic beat me the last three times and I’m not someone who wants revenge so it’s better to play Murray. “If I play against Murray all the talk will be about playing the only player to beat Novak this year, so it will still be very tough. “If it’s Djokovic I’ll be there to fight. There will probably be less pressure on me than before because I’ll lose the favourite status and be able to play without 100 percent pressure. “I’ll try my best and fight, sport is this.
If someone is better than you then you try to find solutions to find that level.” The undisputed king of clay has won two tournaments on the dirt this season but last week suffered his first defeat on the surface to Djokovic in the Madrid final. It was the third Masters final he had lost to the Serbian this season following those in Indian Wells and Miami. Gasquet had a big chance to get his nose in front in the sixth game when a couple of backhand winners, including a brilliant crosscourt one from the back of the court, gave him double break point. But Nadal went for the percentages and some high kicking serves out wide put him on the front foot and got him out of trouble as the Frenchman’s inspiration deserted him.
Some power hitting from Nadal gave him his first break chance in the 11th game as he forced several errors from Gasquet. Meanwhile, former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova will play Australia’s Samantha Stosur in the Rome International final after their semi-final victories on Saturday. Seventh seed Sharapova defeated world number one Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3 in a match littered with service breaks. Sharapova has won their seven previous encounters, dropping only two sets in the process, but has never been entirely comfortable on clay while Stosur says it is her favourite surface.
“It’s the first time I’m playing her on clay and her best results have been on clay,” said Sharapova.
“She’s playing really good tennis, clay really suits her game but it’s a great feeling to be in the final of this event, I’m just going to go out and go for it. “With every year I feel better and better on it (clay). When I was first on tour I wasn’t the strongest, I didn’t have the strongest legs and I didn’t find it easy to recover from one match to the next but I’ve improved on that.”