Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 February 2020

French Open: Rafael Nadal blows Kei Nishikori away to reach semi-finals

World No 2 sets up meeting with Roger Federer, who overcame Stan Wawrinka, while in the women's draw Johanna Konta beat Sloane Stephens to reach her first Roland Garros semi-final

Rafael Nadal fires a serve down towards Kei Nishikori on his way to a quarter-final victory at the 2019 French Open. Reuters
Rafael Nadal fires a serve down towards Kei Nishikori on his way to a quarter-final victory at the 2019 French Open. Reuters

Roger Federer set up a mouthwatering French Open semi-final clash with Rafael Nadal on Tuesday when he defeated Stan Wawrinka in four sets to become the oldest men's grand slam semi-finalist in 28 years.

The 37-year-old Swiss beat his compatriot 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 to reach his 43rd major semi-final and eighth at Roland Garros.

He trails his head-to-head record with Nadal 23-15, but has won their last five meetings.

Defending champion Nadal, bidding for a 12th title at the French Open, blitzed a weary Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in his quarter-final.

"It was hard, really, really hard. Stan played a really good match, I'm very happy to play him here at Roland Garros," Federer said.

The 20-time grand slam champion is the oldest man to make the semis at one of the big four tournaments since Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open aged 39.

Wawrinka saved 16 of 18 break points in a thrilling encounter, but Federer quickly finished off the match after a rain delay to progress.

It is the third seed's first appearance at the French Open since 2015 after taking time away from clay to focus on Wimbledon, but he has been in fine form in Paris and has only lost one set so far - as has Nadal.

Nadal, who turned 33 on Monday, is three behind Federer in the all-time list of grand slam singles titles heading into their 39th career clash.

It will be Federer's first Roland Garros semi-final since a defeat by Novak Djokovic in 2012.

Considering Nishikori had a 0-4 win-loss record against Nadal on clay, his chances of narrowing that run on Tuesday were slim - and so it proved to be.

Despite his usual early nerves, the Spaniard raced through the opening set, Nishikori's face already telling a tale of defeat.

Nishikori broke back for 1-1 but that effort proved to be his undoing as Nadal won the remaining five games to lead two sets to love.

After a quick check on his right arm by the physiotherapist, Nishikori was declared fit to continue and Nadal showed no mercy.

The match was interrupted at 4-2 because of a fast approaching thunderstorm, but the hour-long delay failed to hand Nishikori a lifeline.

Upon resumption, Nadal swiftly ended Nishikori's nightmare ordeal, wrapping it up on the first match point.

Earlier on Tuesday, Johanna Konta became the first British woman in 36 years to reach the Roland Garros semi-finals when she swept past Sloane Stephens of the United States on Tuesday.

Konta, the 26th seed, downed last year's runner-up 6-1, 6-4 and will face either Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova or Croatian 31st Petra Martic for a place in the final.

Jo Durie was the last British woman to make the French Open semi-finals in 1983.

The last British finalist in Paris was Sue Barker who lifted the trophy in 1976.

The 28-year-old Konta had not won a match at Roland Garros in any of her previous four visits.

However, she now finds herself in her third semi-final at a major after runs to the last-four at the 2016 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017.

"To play on the new Chatrier court for the first time was wonderful, especially against one of the world's best players," said Konta after her third win in 2019 over Stephens.

"I am super happy because the conditions were so windy and Sloane is the kind of player who can run away with a match.

"So I had to be prepared to keep her on the back foot and control the points."

Konta made sure of emulating Durie by breaking former US Open champion Stephens in the fourth and sixth games of the first set.

The Briton fired four aces and 12 winners past her 26-year-old opponent in the 35-minute opener.

Konta tightened her grip with a break in the opening game of the second set and that proved more than enough.

Such was Konta's domination that she allowed Stephens just one point on her serve in the entire second set which ended with a whimper when the American sent a groundstroke wide of the mark.

Updated: June 4, 2019 09:32 PM



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