Nadal into Rome Masters final after Berdych win


Rafael Nadal set up a potential Rome Masters final with Swiss rival Roger Federer after dominating Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4 in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Berdych had caused the first major upset of the tournament when he ousted world number one Novak Djokovic on Friday.

However, despite an improved second set performance against the fifth seed, the Czech could not match Nadal’s power as the Spaniard put himself within touch of a second title inside a week following his Madrid Masters triumph last Sunday.

Nadal admitted he was “very tired” after being pushed to three-set matches on his way to the semi-final.

But the Spaniard sent his rivals a veiled warning when he said this display was the best he had produced since his comeback.

“I think I did almost everything well,” said Nadal.

“Changing direction, playing inside the court, going to the net when I had the chance.

“I am very happy about the way I played. I played one of my best matches since I came back, that’s my feeling.”

Berdych had beaten Djokovic on Friday with a combination of big serves and smart shots from the middle of the second set.

But the big Czech was given little chance by six-time champion Nadal, who made good on his intention to get this semi-final over and done with as quickly as possible.

Nadal, who has now reached eight finals in as many events since his return from a seven-month injury lay-off, collecting five titles in the process, broke Berdych twice in the opening set, including in the opening game.

Berdych’s chances of victory looked slim considering the statistics — he had beaten Nadal only three times in their 16 previous encounters. Only four of those were on clay, and all were won by the Spaniard.

Berdych started the second set positively by holding serve, but squandered his first break point in the next.

This was a much tighter set, but Berdych’s slim hopes were tempered by a Nadal forehand winner in the ninth game which gave him the break.

The Spaniard sealed the win in the 10th game when Berdych sent a backhand return beyond the baseline.

“He starts really well and, of course, it’s Rafa and we know how he plays on clay,” said Berdych.

“It was a good start for him. Yesterday I had one chance that I did take and I won, and today I had one chance that I didn’t take and I lost.”

Nadal will meet Federer on Sunday if the Swiss second seed beats French upstart Benoit Paire in Saturday’s second semi-final.

Nadal will be looking for a 24th Masters title on Sunday.

He added: “Eight finals in a row is more than a dream for me. Five months ago it was completely impossible to think about something like this.

“Tomorrow I hope to play very well. If I win it will be fantastic, but if I lose it will be okay as well.”