Rafael Nadal continues to shine in his post-injury return to competitive tennis…
The 26-year-old Spanish tennis superstar produced some of his best tennis at the Rome Masters on Saturday to earn his place in the finals.
Nadal started the semi-final match on fire and finished strong to claim a 6-2, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych.
In Sunday’s final, the six-time Rome champion will play his archrival Roger Federer, who defeated surprise semifinalist Benoit Paire of France 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 in the night match.
Nadal was in absolute peak form in the first set, seizing control of almost every point with deep, accurate and heavily spun ground strokes.
And on the rare occasion when Berdych dictated play, the world No. 5 typically won the point anyway with impressive defensive gems.
The second set was more evenly matched, but Berdych’s fate was virtually sealed when he lost his serve in the ninth game, and he was unable to mount a miracle comeback like the one he pulled off in Friday’s quarterfinals against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
“I played at a high level and everything went well with no mistakes. I was dominating the points and following to the net. I think I played one of my best matches since I am came back” Nadal said in a post-match interview, referring to his long injury layoff from July 2012 until early this year.
Nadal has made a miraculous return to the ATP Tour since recovering from a knee injury, reaching eight straight finals dating back to a small clay-court tournament in Viña del Mar, Chile, in February.
Nadal and Federer have played 29 times, with Nadal holding a 19-10 advantage. Sunday’s final will be their 15th meeting on clay, with Nadal holding a 12-2 advantage on his favorite surface.
Nadal can move up to No. 4 in the rankings – and avoid a possible quarterfinal matchup at the French Open against either Djokovic, Federer or Andy Murray – if he wins Sunday’s final, which will be the best of three sets.