Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sports

Nadal shrugs off short-lived setback

PARIS — Briefly, Rafael Nadal was in a difficult spot in the French Open quarterfinals.

For the first time in this year's tournament, the eight-time champion dropped a set.

And this had to be on Nadal's mind: Opponent David Ferrer could present real problems. Not only is Ferrer ranked No. 5 and was the runner-up (to Nadal) at Roland Garros a year ago, but he also beat Nadal on red clay the last time they played.

Nadal handled this test perfectly. From late in the second set, he won 10 games in a row and 13 of the last 14 to come back and beat Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1, setting up a semifinal Friday against Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.

"At the beginning," Nadal acknowledged, "David was playing with a higher intensity than me."

But once Nadal made a key adjustment — dispensing with his surprisingly off-target backhand as much as possible and doing whatever he could to use his topspin-heavy forehand — he took over.

After committing 28 unforced errors across the windy first two sets, Nadal had zero in the third and three in the last.

"When I was able to hit with my forehand," Nadal said, "I felt that I was in control."

Ferrer said that in the latter stages, "I lost my concentration, my focus."

The route Murray took during his 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0 victory over No. 23 Gael Monfils of France was far more circuitous, finishing right on the cusp of dusk after 9:30 p.m. In front of a crowd loudly pulling for Monfils at Court Philippe Chatrier, Murray was terrific at the outset, mediocre in the middle then closed on a high.

After a brief discussion with a tournament official over whether there was enough sun to play the fifth set — the Roland Garros courts have no artificial lights — Murray made the whole thing moot. He raced through that set in 21 minutes, winning 24 of 31 points, as Monfils appeared to stop trying.

"Everything happened very fast," Monfils said.

Said Murray: "It was so dark at the end. Thankfully for me, he played a poor fifth set once I got ahead."

Murray will be playing in the French Open semifinals for the second time; he lost to Nadal in 2011.

The other men's semifinal will be No. 2 Novak Djokovic against No. 18 Ernests Gulbis.

Earlier, No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania and No. 28 Andrea Petkovic of Germany moved into the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. Halep beat 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2, and Petkovic defeated 2012 runner-up Sara Errani by the same score.

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