"The good thing if you want to talk about the past is in the last month, my feeling is every week better than the previous one," says Rafael Nadal. Photo: Reuters

ROME – The defense Rafael Nadal celebrated past Spaniard Fernando Verdasco on Friday to create a revenge fight against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Italian Open Semifinal. The admission of the young Greek has long been his tip to make the big time in 2019.

The eight-hour Rome champion came through 6-4 6-0 against Verdasco and then meets Tsitsipas, who shocked him at the Madrid Open semifinals last week.

The 20-year-old Greek advanced after Roger Federer – returning to Rome laughs for the first time since 2016 – retired with right leg injuries before their fight.

Nadal, 32, seeded second, advanced to his fourth straight semifinal, but failed to advance on clay this season, before his bid for a 12th French open title at Roland Garros, starting May 26.

"After many years here, I know what happened last week and I will try to do better tomorrow," said 17-year-old Grand Slam winner Nadal.

"It's good news. I've been able to be back in the semi-finals. Another three wins (in Rome).

"Of course, you're talking to the team about every match, every condition, every win or any loss. But I'm honest, I know what happened, and I'll try to do better tomorrow.

"What happened in Monte Carlo happened. What happened in Barcelona happened. What happened in Madrid happened. Here we are. We're in Rome. It's another event."

Tsitsipas shocked Nadal 6-4 2-6 6-3 last week before falling to Novak Djokovic in the final.

The world's number seven lost to Nadal in the Australian Open semis earlier this year.

"Stefanos is a good player. Every year we make a prediction with the team, which player must be at the top 10 at the end of the season before the season starts.

"I'm putting Tsitsipas there. I'm not saying that because I'm a genius. I say that because he was a clear candidate to be where he is.

"He started even better than I had expected. He deserves to be where he is now."

Nadal has not lost a set in Rome, coming back from an early break in the first set against Verdasco, who beat a break point for 3-0.

Verdasco, 35, had emitted fifth seed Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov, grafted 11, to reach his first master quarterfinals since 2017 in Paris.

But Nadal searing forehand winners up the line withdrew the second seed, and he fought three three points at 4-4.

The second set was sometime when Nadal extended his record against Verdasco to 17-3.

Nadal had only lost two games in his previous two games against Jeremy Chardy and Nikoloz Basilashvili, both played on Thursday to make up for the rain wash the previous day.

The dual duty turned out too much for Federer, 37 who withdrew with right-handed injury along with the top woman's player Naomi Osaka with a right-handed problem.

"How it works sometimes," Nadal said. "It can happen in outdoor conditions. It's part of the game. I'm very sorry Osaka, especially sorry for Roger.

"It would have been great to have the chance to play against him here in the semi-finals. But I want another very tough opponent in Tsitsipas.

"The good thing if you want to talk about the past is in the last month, my feeling is every week better than the previous one."

Tsitsipas, the eighth seed, has also not lost a set this week, with the Monte Carlo winner Fabio Fognini beating his place in the quarterfinals.

AFP

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.