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Rafael Nadal beats Jurgen Melzer to reach Paris final

French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Date: 23 May-6 June
Coverage:
Live video streamed from 1000 BST on BBC Sport website (UK only) and BBC red button; commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra; also live on Eurosport; text commentary on BBC Sport website Details of BBC coverage

Rafael Nadal

Highlights - Nadal eases into final

By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal earned the chance to win a fifth French Open title and gain revenge for last year's shock defeat after seeing off Jurgen Melzer in the semi-finals.

The Spaniard, 24, took his record on clay this year to 21-0 with a 6-2 6-3 7-6 (8-6) win in two hours and nine minutes against the Austrian 22nd seed.

"I think I played my best match today here in Roland Garros, 2010," said Nadal. "First two sets I played really well and with my serve I played well all the time, with the forehand too.

"And with the backhand I am playing better and better every day, but I can improve a little bit more."

In Sunday's final Nadal will face Robin Soderling - the man who inflicted upon him a first-ever Roland Garros defeat in the fourth round last year - after the Swede battled past Tomas Berdych in five sets.

In the tie-break I played better. I had just one double-fault. That's the only point that I'm not happy about

Rafael Nadal

A victory on Sunday will also see Nadal regain the world number one ranking from Roger Federer, leaving the Swiss one week short of matching Pete Sampras's record 286 weeks at the top.

Nadal had made it through to the last four in Paris without losing a set and surprise semi-finalist Melzer was always facing a near impossible task.

The 29-year-old Austrian, appearing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, was up against an all-time great and had won just eight games in two previous meetings with the world number two.

With this in mind, Melzer took the reasonable decision to rely on his attacking instincts and made his way to the net whenever possible, but that was far from easy under the usual barrage of heavy topsin from Nadal.

The Spaniard made his first breakthrough in game six when a heavy forehand brought him three break points and Melzer gave up the game with a double-fault.

There was a fleeting chance in the next game for the Austrian, urged on by a small but vociferous group of compatriots, but a big first serve saw Nadal save a break point and he broke again with a fierce forehand into the corner soon after to take the set.

With the searing afternoon heat beginning to lessen the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier wanted to see a lengthy contest and Melzer certainly gave it his all in an entertaining second set.

After saving a break point in game two he, seemingly inevitably, fell 3-1 behind only to get the break back immediately thanks to a backhand winner and a delicate drop volley.

But Melzer's eagerness to get to the net proved his downfall in the following game when he simply could not handle a vicious Nadal forehand from close range, and a forehand error put the former champion back in charge at 4-2.

The only thing that would disrupt Nadal on his way to winning the second set would be a brief disturbance in the crowd but he remained focused and, if anything, stepped up his level at the start of the third.

606: DEBATE

Skipping round his backhand he pulled a brilliant forehand down the line to break Melzer for the fifth time and he appeared to be strolling towards the finish line.

There was a twist, however, as Nadal was broken to love when serving for the match, double-faulting on the first break point, and thoughts turned to Melzer's quarter-final comeback from two sets down against Novak Djokovic.

The crowd on Chatrier came to life as their new-found hero saw off a break point in game 11 with a trademark foray into the net and moved 2-0 up in the tie-break after a woeful Nadal smash found the net.

Nadal found himself drawn into a real contest when he double-faulted again at 3-3 but found inspiration when he needed it, sending up a magnificent backhand lob to level at 4-4.

Melzer just would not lie down and recovered two match points, the second with a daring drop shot, but at 6-6 Nadal made a thumping forehand winner and the Austrian's challenge finally ended when he found the net on the third match point.

"The third set I had completely under control at 5-3, 0-30, so I thought I have the chance to finish there," added Nadal.

"But I made some mistakes and at 5-4 I played a terrible first point. I played a forehand down the line, three metres outside. I was a little bit nervous after that.

"Then in the tie-break I think I played better, I had just one double-fault. That's the only point that I'm not happy about but I can't say anything against myself because I served pretty well all the match."

Nadal now stands one victory from moving past Frenchman Henri Cochet in the all-time list of French Open winners and to within one of Bjorn Borg's six titles.



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see also
Soderling beats Berdych in semis
04 Jun 10 |  Tennis
French Open day 13 as it happened
04 Jun 10 |  Tennis
French Open day 13 photos
04 Jun 10 |  Tennis
Venus & Serena win doubles title
04 Jun 10 |  Tennis
Champion Nadal falls to Soderling
31 May 09 |  Tennis
Grand Slam men's singles latest
21 May 10 |  Tennis
Grand Slam women's singles latest
21 May 10 |  Tennis
Order of play
23 May 09 |  Tennis


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