Nadal eyes third straight French title

Updated: 08 June 2007 14:12 IST

Rafael Nadal overwhelmed Carlos Moya 6-4, 6-3, 6-0 on Wednesday in the quarterfinals to close in on a third consecutive French Open title.


Friend or foe, mentor or up-and-comer, Rafael Nadal treats everyone on the other side of the net at the French Open with the same amount of courtesy.

He beats them, soundly and quickly.

Carlos Moya, Nadal's pal and the 1998 champion at Roland Garros, was the 19th opponent for the kid with the clamdiggers at the clay-court Grand Slam - and the 19th to lose.

Nadal overwhelmed Moya 6-4, 6-3, 6-0 on Wednesday in the quarterfinals to close in on a third consecutive French Open title.

Was that any way to treat a guy who took Nadal under his wing because both are from the island of Mallorca? A guy Nadal practices tennis with, plays video games with, hangs out with?

"Not very nice?" Nadal said, repeating the question. "No. Yes. No. ... I was just trying my best."

Nadal's superb run

His best is as good as it gets on clay, and he's yet to drop a set in the tournament. Nadal won 16 of the 24 points that lasted at least 10 strokes against Moya and dominated down the stretch, taking the last eight games.

"It's a little bit painful when you lose a set 6-0," the 23rd-seeded Moya said. "It felt very uncomfortable, and I couldn't do much about it."

Nadal improved to 32-0 in best-of-five-set matches on clay. Next up is No 6 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who eliminated Igor Andreev of Russia 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to get to his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Djokovic knows what to expect Friday: He quit with a back injury after losing the first two sets against Nadal in last year's French Open quarterfinals.

"He's the best player in the world on this surface," Djokovic said. "He plays with a lot of motivation and confidence. Physically he's very ready."

Moya no slouch

Moya's no slouch, either. He led all active players with 15 titles on red clay - until Nadal won two this year to get to 16. Moya also reached the 1997 Australian Open final and the 1998 US Open semifinals and was briefly ranked No. 1 in 1999, the first Spaniard to claim the top spot.

Some think Nadal, who turned 21 on Sunday, could get there, too, one day, although there's a certain someone standing in the way at the moment: Roger Federer, who'll play No 4 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in the semifinals.

The No 1-ranked Federer has won 10 of the last 15 majors and is bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to claim four consecutive Grand Slam titles. The French Open is the only major Federer hasn't won; he lost to Nadal in the final last year and the semifinals in 2005.

"Four play in the semifinals and four have chances for the title, no? I don't think about Roger," said Nadal, whose record 81-match winning streak on clay was ended by Federer at last month's Hamburg Masters. "I know Roger is the best in the world, and Roger beat me last time, so in my opinion, he's the favorite for the tournament."

In the women's semifinals Thursday, top-seeded Justine Henin plays No. 4 Jelena Jankovic, and No. 2 Maria Sharapova faces No. 7 Ana Ivanovic. Jankovic, Ivanovic and Djokovic give Serbia three semifinalists at a major for the first time.

"Phenomenal for such a small country," the 20-year-old Djokovic said. "Especially with no tennis tradition."

He and Andreev were tied at 3-3 when Djokovic began to assert himself, reeling off five consecutive games to go up by a set and a break. He broke again in the final game of the second set and was on his way.

"I was aggressive from the start," Djokovic said, "and that was the key."

Djokovic's all-around game led to 52 forced errors by Andreev, who is ranked 125th and knocked off No 3 Andy Roddick in the first round.

Djokovic impresses

Suffice it to say, Djokovic made an impression.

"He has no bad shots. He does everything very well," Andreev said. "Defending very well, serving very well. Mentally, he is so strong for a young age."

The same could be said of Nadal, who marveled Wednesday about just how long he's already been on the pro circuit.

"Five years? Unbelievable. Very old," he said with a smile. "On the tour, very old. But the age is not."

Moya is 30, but it's not as though the disparity played much of a role. Instead, it was, as usual, Nadal's ability to track down ball after ball, and his high-bouncing, full-of-spin forehand, a shot two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt called "quite amazing" after losing to the Spaniard in the fourth round.

Nadal also hurt Moya by repeatedly going after his backhand, particularly with serves. That's part of the reason Nadal faced only four break points, saving three.

They met back when Nadal was 12, and even Moya has been wowed by the progress his buddy's made.

"I knew that he was going to have a good career," Moya said, "but nobody expected him to be as good as he is right now."

Topics : Tennis Andy Roddick Lukas Dlouhy Rohan Bopanna Leander Paes Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi Maria Sharapova
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