Sunday, May 8, 2011

Djokovic stays unbeaten, will face Nadal in Madrid final

Sunday, May 8, 2011








MADRID (AP) ? Rafael Nadal overcame the distress of Seve Ballesteros' death to beat Roger Federer 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 on Saturday to reach his third consecutive Madrid Open final, where the surging Novak Djokovic awaits after rallying to beat unseeded Thomaz Bellucci 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.





  • Novak Djokovic pumps his fist in celebration during his three-set victory Saturday against Thomaz Belluci of Brazil in the semifinals of the Madrid Open. Djokovic rallied from a set down to stay unbeaten in 2011.

    By Dani Pozo, AFP/Getty Images


    Novak Djokovic pumps his fist in celebration during his three-set victory Saturday against Thomaz Belluci of Brazil in the semifinals of the Madrid Open. Djokovic rallied from a set down to stay unbeaten in 2011.



By Dani Pozo, AFP/Getty Images


Novak Djokovic pumps his fist in celebration during his three-set victory Saturday against Thomaz Belluci of Brazil in the semifinals of the Madrid Open. Djokovic rallied from a set down to stay unbeaten in 2011.






Nadal maintained his clay dominance over Federer after an emotional start that saw the Spanish player shedding tears during an homage for golf great Ballesteros, who died earlier Saturday.


Nadal controlled the early stages before uncharacteristic errors allowed the third-ranked Swiss player back into the game to take the first set.


But the defending champion took control after that as he converted four break points over the next two sets to win his 37th straight match on clay and extend his record to 11-2 against Federer on the surface.


Nadal will try for his first title in three attempts against Djokovic in 2011 after the second-ranked Serb extended his perfect start to the season to 31 matches. Djokovic defeated Nadal in back-to-back Masters Series finals, in Indian Wells, Calif., and Key Biscayne, Fla., earlier this year.


Djokovic has won five titles on the current run — including the Australian Open— and is 33-0 stretching to last year's Davis Cup win to pass Nadal in holding the eighth longest streak.


Longest winning streaks to start a season on the ATP Tour:


42: John McEnroe, 1984


31: Bjorn Borg, 1980


31: Novak Djokovic, 2011


29: Ivan Lendl, 1986


Earlier, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus ended German Julia Goerges' 10-match winning streak 6-4, 6-2 to set up the women's final against Petra Kvitova, who ousted sixth-seeded Li Na of China 6-3, 6-1.


Azarenka — who ensured she moves up one spot to a career-best No. 4 in the rankings by reaching the final — and Czech player Kvitova will both be chasing their third titles of the year at the Caja Magica.


Nadal was visibly upset when he watched a video screen showing highlights of Ballesteros' career, as was former tennis great Manolo Santana, who watched from the stands. The 54-year-old Ballesteros died early Saturday after a two-year-plus battle against brain cancer.


"It's a sad day for Spain, for all athletes," said Nadal, who played golf with Ballesteros. "This win is much too small to dedicate to Seve —he's one of the greatest players in the history of our sport."


It was the first time Nadal and Federer had met in succession but not in a final, and Nadal looked set for another quick win — as in Miami — when Federer was broken to trail 3-0.


But Nadal lost his rhythm and netted to let Federer back in and the 2009 champion smashed a forehand at the net for a break in the 12th game on his way to a first-set lead.


The winner of the first set had taken the previous 12 encounters between these two rivals.


But Nadal broke Federer immediately in the second set and the Swiss never seemed to recover from a disputed call that TV replays showed touched the sideline.


"If it goes my way it's obviously huge, if it goes his way it's huge (too). I don't care anymore, it's in the past," said Federer, who was bothered by a sore right shoulder. "I made some easy mistakes on the volley and the forehand. Maybe the result doesn't show it as much but I thought I was right there."


Nadal rode that momentum into the final set and went ahead 4-1 when Federer hit wide to be broken.


Federer emerged from a 20-shot rally with a break chance in the penultimate game but sent his backhand into the net. Nadal clinched a chance to win his third event of the season when Federer sent his 45th unforced error into the net.


"Playing Federer always provides a special satisfaction as we have played so many important matches," said Nadal, who improved to 16-8 overall against Federer. "It was a difficult game, not one of our best games, for either of us."


Bellucci's booming forehand forced Djokovic into 19 unforced errors in the first set, the Serb often scrambling to get the ball back while deep behind the baseline.


Djokovic watched a triple-break point disappear when his 36th-ranked opponent won 10 straight points and broke to lead 3-1.


But the Serb broke back and leveled at 3-3 before smashing a forehand at the net for a second break, the set and a big boost.


Djokovic fired a crosscourt forehand to break Bellucci for 2-0 and was flying after that as he closed it out with his sixth ace.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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