Rafael Nadal beats Gasquet to reach Italian Open final

Rafael Nadal beats Gasquet to reach Italian Open final | Nadal beats Gasquet to reach Italian Open final

Rafael Nadal overcame a stiff first-set challenge from Richard Gasquet before rolling to a 7-5, 6-1 win Saturday in the Italian Open semifinals. The top-ranked Spaniard faced break points in three different games during the first set but won all of them to improve his career record against Gasquet to 9-0.

In Sunday’s final, Nadal will face either second-ranked Novak Djokovic or No. 4 Andy Murray, who were meeting later on another cloudless day at the Foro Italico. Nadal is aiming to win this clay-court tournament for the sixth time in seven years, while Djokovic is aiming to extend his 37-match winning streak.

Djokovic beat Nadal for the first time on clay in last weekend’s Madrid Open final. Nadal improved his career record in Rome to 31-1, with his only loss coming to countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero in his opening round three years ago. He didn’t appear to show any effects of the virus that slowed him during his opening two matches this week.Rafael Nadal beats Gasquet to reach Italian Open final, Nadal beats Gasquet to reach Italian Open final

Despite the loss, the 16th-seeded Gasquet should take some confidence into the French Open, which starts next weekend. The Frenchman eliminated Roger Federer in the third round and beat seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. In women’s semifinal action earlier, Australia’s Sam Stosur showed she has rediscovered her clay-court game almost exactly a year after reaching the French Open final.

Stosur beat fourth-seeded Li Na of China 7-6 (6), 6-0 to advance to her first final since losing to Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros last year. Stosur saved a set point in the tiebreaker when Li, the Australian Open runner-up, missed a forehand wide. Stosur then closed out the set with an authoritative forehand winner and cruised from there. Stosur will face either top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki or seventh-seeded Maria Sharapova, who were playing later.

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