Nadal sets up final with Federer
Friday 04 July 2008
Rafael Nadal steamrollered through the first set of his Wimbledon semi-final against Rainer Schuettler on Centre Court today, taking just 23 minutes to claim the advantage 6-1.
The irresistible Spaniard was simply too good for the German who had squeezed through to the last four after completing a five-hour epic against Arnaud Clement yesterday.
Nadal dropped only four points in the first four games and did not produce a single unforced error until the fifth game, by which point the set was already a foregone conclusion.
Having been double-broken, shell-shocked Schuettler finally rallied to clinch his first game at 1-4, but Nadal responded in irrepressible fashion, swiftly breaking again to wrap up a ridiculously one-sided set.
Since winning their first meeting four years ago, Schuettler had failed to win a single set from Nadal in three matches.
Improving that record looked a distant dream after the opening set but the 32-year-old stunned the Centre Court crowd by breaking Nadal for a 2-1 lead - only the fourth time in the championships Nadal had lost his serve.
Schuettler was unrecognisable from the nervous wreck who had capitulated in the early stages, wrong-footing Nadal on several occasions with winners on either wing.
But the nerves kicked in again as he tried to serve for the set at 5-4, two woeful forehands way over the baseline allowing Nadal to break back easily.
Nadal then raced into a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, aided by two more forehand errors from his opponent, and took it 7-3 for a two sets to love lead.
At 94th in the world, Schuettler is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals since Goran Ivanisevic, who was 125th when he won the title in 2001.
A repeat of Ivanisevic's fairytale victory was never on the cards however, Nadal quickly breaking serve in the third set to strengthen his stranglehold on the match.
Nadal was bleeding from a graze on his left knee but it was a self-inflicted wound rather than any damage inflicted by Schuettler, who was proving a game, but limited, opponent.
Even Nadal's Hawk-Eye challenges were unerringly accurate and the Spaniard could even afford to squander three match points on Schuettler's serve before wrapping up a 6-1 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 victory in a minute over two hours.
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