Nadal through, but leaves room for improvement

Roger Federer had the luxury of watching from the locker room and must have liked what he saw. Rafael Nadal duly won his semi-final against Rainer Schüttler in straight sets here yesterday to earn a place in the final against Federer for the third year in succession, but this was the Spaniard's least impressive performance of the tournament.

Having demolished Mikhail Youzhny and Andy Murray, Nos 17 and 11 in the world respectively, in the previous two rounds, Nadal struggled to see off Schüttler, the world No 94, before winning 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 in just over two hours.

Nadal's movement has been one of the most significant improvements in his grass-court game this year, but on this occasion, playing in different shoes, he never looked sure of his footwork. After dominating the first set, in which he made only one unforced error, the French Open champion made 17 in the last two.

It was not the sort of form Nadal wanted to show as he prepared for his date with history. The world No 2 is attempting to become only the third man in the Open era to win the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double in the same year, after Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver. He would also be the first Spaniard to win at the All England Club since Manuel Santana in 1966.

"Maybe today wasn't my best match here this year," said Nadal. "The first set was very easy, which is always a good thing, but at the same time it's difficult when your opponent then starts to play better. That can make you feel strange on court. But the most important thing is that I'm in the final."

Schüttler, playing less than 24 hours after completing his five-hour quarter-final against Arnaud Clément, was the most unlikely of semi-finalists. The 32-year-old German is a former world No 5, but his ranking had fallen so far that he was playing tournaments on the Challenger circuit earlier this year.

If his victories here had restored his confidence there was no evidence of it in the first set, which was over in 23 minutes. Schüttler was broken to 15 in his first two service games, went 0-4 down and lost the set when he put a limp forehand in the net.

As Schüttler went 2-0 down in the second set he screamed in frustration, imploring himself to be more aggressive. It did the trick as Nadal dropped his serve for only the fourth time in the tournament.

Thereafter the Spaniard made a steady flow of mistakes and would have lost the set had Schüttler not weakened when serving at 5-4. At 15-30 the German let out another scream after a careless forehand, only to repeat the mistake on the following point. The set went to a tie-break, which Nadal won 7-3.

Schüttler was broken in the third game of the final set. Serving at 3-5 and 0-40 he made a final gesture of defiance, winning five points in a row, but Nadal duly served out for the match.

While Nadal's performance was patchy, there was still some evidence of the improvements he has made to his game this summer. He won 12 of the 14 points he played at the net, played aggressively when he could, hitting 40 winners to Schüttler's 21, and served impressively.

Always modest and respectful towards Federer, Nadal was asked if he knew how to beat the world No 1 on grass. "No," he replied to the amusement of the post-match press conference. "I can only try my best, try to find my rhythm and my intensity. If he plays better than me and beats me I'll just congratulate him like I do every year."

News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor