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37 in a row for Rafa (clay court semi-final wins)

Rafa v Joker final to come

April 21, 2012 | 08:49 PM

Rafa hasn't lost a semi-final on clay since 2003. Nor had he lost to a Frenchman on clay since '04. His streak's alive.

Gilles Simon was no match for Rafa in his sand box: 6-3, 6-4. He did earn 7 chances to break serve, but it wasn't enough. But if he'd had 17 chances and converted one, he'd still have needed to save a few himself. No way.

For a man who's been sprinkling doubts on his own fitness, Rafa's had few occasions to test it this week and arrives in a rendezvous with a fit #1 he hasn't beaten in almost a year and half.

The Serb had more than a normal load of challenges for anyone this week, starting with the loss of a beloved grandfather. Erratic play and poor concentration dogged him in the first set of his 2nd round against Dolgopolov (no pun intended), and his emotions were on display in the first set against Berdych when after finally breaking the Czech with pressure in a third consecutive game, he lost his own serve at love and hammered his racquet a couple of times to break it. The wind could be expected to have caused Berdych serving difficulties, given he has one of the highest tosses in the men's game. But it was Joker who needed an excuse: he was broken a second straight time to fall behind 5-4, allowing Berdych to hold for a 6-4 first set in which he served at a dismal 41% and lost 65% of his 2nd serve points. Joker serve at very respectable 58%.

Difficult holds characterized Joker's first two service games in the 2nd set, as he saved 2 break points in each game, saving two from 15-40 in the 2nd one. But he broke Berdych in the second game to take a 3-0 lead, and ran out the set 6-3 without challenging on another return game (he won only 2 more points on return in the set, but took 68% of his serve points in spite of 4 double faults).

In the 3rd set, double faults hurt the Czech in the early games, costing him his first two service games and spotting Joker to another 3-0 lead, this time with the serve. He went up 4-0 quickly, and served out the set 6-2.

Will he stop Rafa from continuing another streak tomorrow?

Nadal v Djokovic: 8 am The Tennis Channel


Monte Carlo semis 4.21.12

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