Last year’s French Open finalists are both through to the semi-finals, where they’ll meet in what looks to be a thrilling encounter – the one we’d all predicted and relished. Read how they secured their spot in the last four below.
Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal got off to the perfect start, breaking Stanislas Wawrinka’s serve. For a man attempting to do what only one person, Robin Soderling, has done before, beat Nadal at the French Open, it was the worst possibly beginning to the match. Additionally, the odds were further stacked against him due to the fact that he’d never took a set off the Spaniard in nine previous meetings. From that break, control was always in Rafa’s hands. After managing a further break, he served out the set with a superb ace – winning the opening set 6-2.
At one point during the second set, things actually looked up for the Swiss number two. The third seed seized control early in set two, however Wawrinka got back in it – he broke Rafa’s serve for the first, and what turned out to be the last, time all afternoon and levelled second set proceedings at 3-3. The reigning champion wasted little time in re-grouping and took the next three games to win the second set 6-3 and strongly place one foot in the semi-finals – making his opponent have it all to do to stand a chance.
The third set was the easiest of the lot for the dominating Rafael Nadal, winning it in little over half an hour. It wasn’t until the penultimate game of the third set that Wawrinka held, saving himself from going down six to love. A comfortable breeze into the last four for Rafa ended; 6-6-2 6-3 6-1.
Perhaps the Swiss’ previous long five-setter with Richard Gasquet took its toll on him as his efforts to beat Nadal didn’t come anywhere near touching the sides of the standards required to beat him on the red grit. Wawrinka’s strengths, often considered as his backhand and fast serve, weren’t at their best and were barely allowed a sniff. Four double faults and forty unforced errors for the Swiss hopeful.
As for Nadal, it was pretty much back to the top tennis we’re more used to. At the net, he looked fantastic. He put Wawrinka deep into the court and hit some devastating forehands, looking in good shape ahead of what is his biggest test so far since returning from a knee injury.
Meanwhile, Djokovic and Haas’ first set dipped and peaked for both players, mainly due to unforced errors, but no decisive blows were landed. In game seven, the Serb broke the German’s serve with an arsenal of powerful forehands, he went on to hold serve and break again using the same forehand power, and an ace also helped him to win the set’s final three game in just 11 minutes. 6-3 to the world no.1.
In the second, although the set was decided by a tiebreak, having neither player broken serve over 12 games, Djokovic still had the upper hand. Helped by an astounding six aces, he lost few points on serve, winning them all in under 3 minutes. Whereas Haas’ second set was littered with 16 unforced errors. About halfway through the set the Serb had a chance to break, but typically, the German swung it back to deuce with his only ace of the set. However, a 109mph ace knocked Haas’ confidence in the tiebreak, handing Djokovic the set 7-6 (7-5).
The top seed carried his momentum in the beginning of the final set, with loads of great forehand and backhand winners in the first three, yet, Haas broke back in the fourth, levelling it at 2-2. The German took the lead on serve, but then Novak won three straight games, making it 5-3. The underdog performed under preesure though, as over nearly 15 minutes he fought hard and held and broke to level it at 5-5! Another twist though as the Djoker broke back, and after a forehand unforced error on the Serb’s serve, Tommy Haas caved in. Final score 6-3, 7-6, 7-5.
In the next round he’ll play Nadal, and I’m afraid I just can’t see the past the King of Clay’s fantastic forehands on this one. Novak can spin it better than Rafa in my opinion, wearing out the Spaniard. But all the same I’m predicting Nadal in five sets. Both semi-finals will be contested on Friday.
– Nathan Morley & Jacob Lee