Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Nadal calling the shots

Rafael Nadal is putting up staggering numbers as he positions himself for a record seventh French Open title. He has won 60 of 61 service games and saved 16 of 17 break points.

Associated Press

Rafael Nadal is putting up staggering numbers as he positions himself for a record seventh French Open title. He has won 60 of 61 service games and saved 16 of 17 break points.

PARIS — It was about time Rafael Nadal faced some sort of test at the French Open.

Not that this one lasted all that long or was all that taxing.

Still, after dropping a total of 19 games through his first four matches — the fewest at Roland Garros in 30 years — Nadal finally found himself in an even-as-can-be set at the outset of his quarterfinal against 12th-seeded Nicolas Almagro.

While Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have been forced to come back from two-set deficits in Paris, this qualified as a tight spot for Nadal. They went to a tiebreaker, and when Almagro's backhand return of a 121 mph serve landed out to cede the set, Nadal leaned forward and yelled, "Come on!"

Maybe it signaled excitement. This much was clear: Nadal can summon his best play when he needs it. Moving closer to a record seventh French Open championship, Nadal reached the semifinals by beating Almagro 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-3 to improve to 50-1 at the claycourt Grand Slam tournament.

"I played well. I applied my strategy. I tried to do my best," Almagro said. "But he was at such a high level."

As he always is at Roland Garros. This year, though, Nadal's level has been even higher than usual.

Not only has he won all 15 sets he has played, he has won 60 of his 61 service games, 54 in a row since getting broken in the second set of his first-round victory. He has saved 16 of 17 break points, including going 4-for-4 against Almagro.

"If I'd not lost any set and not lost my serve, it would have been a miracle," the second-seeded Nadal said. "It's just impossible to achieve that."

The next player who will try to stop him is No. 6 David Ferrer. He reached his third major semifinal but first at the French by eliminating No. 4 Andy Murray 6-4, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2 in a match interrupted by a half-hour rain delay early in the third set.

"Winning a match against Rafa is almost impossible," Ferrer said of his fellow Spaniard. "He is in such good shape."

Ferrer and Federer are both 30 — the last two of the record 37 thirtysomethings who were in the draw — and it's the first time two French Open semifinalists were at least that old since Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall in 1969.

Against Murray, Ferrer was the picture of perpetual motion, chasing down shots to extend points time after time.

Maria Sharapova moved another step closer to filling in the last piece of the career Grand Slam, defeating Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 6-3 to reach the semifinals.

Second-seeded Sharapova rolled through her 23rd-seeded opponent in 74 minutes, a much different scene than the three-set win over Klara Zakopalova in the fourth round that took more than three hours.

"I'm happy with the way I improved in this match," Sharapova said.

Her next opponent is fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion who ended 142nd-ranked qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova's upset-filled run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory.

Kvitova reached the semi­finals for the third time over the past four Grand Slams.

Sharapova made the semifinals at the French for the third time. She lost at that stage last year and in 2007.

"I love coming back here, love challenging myself to get further every year, and I hope this is this year," she said.

In today's other semifinal, Tampa resident and No. 6 Sam Stosur faces No. 21 Sara Errani, who is winless against Stosur, the U.S. Open champion, in five tries.

>>French open

Today: Women's semifinals

• No. 6 Sam Stosur vs. No. 21 Sara Errani

• No. 2 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 4 Petra Kvitova

TV: 8 a.m., ESPN2

Nadal calling the shots 06/06/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 9:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jameis Winston held his pro day at Florida State's indoor practice facility. His pro team will be getting one soon.
  2. Rays series preview: Who are the Pirates?

    Blogs

    After an off day Monday, the Rays head on the road to PNC Park for a three-game interleague series against the Pirates. Here's the information you need to know about Pittsburgh before the action kicks off.

    Record: 35-41, fourth in NL Central

    Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, left, has rebounded from a rough start, while fellow outfielder Gregory Polanco, right, has fallen off recently.
  3. Countryside alum A.J. Andrews lands in ESPN's annual body issue (w/video)

    Softballpreps

    A.J. Andrews has taken over the spotlight in softball. Last year, the former Countryside High and LSU standout became the first female to win a Rawlings Gold Glove in the award's 59-year existence.

    Former Countryside and LSU softball standout A.J. Andrews will be among 23 athletes to be featured in ESPN The Magazine's body issue. "I have a really ripped back," Andrews says while laughing in the video. [Photo from video]

  4. James Wilder Jr. back at running back...in Canada

    Blogs

    Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

    That was short-lived, apparently.

  5. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport