Rafael Nadal closed out a perfect April with another impressive victory on the clay. Today in the Rome Tennis Masters quarterfinals, Nadal improved April streak to 57 straight victories following a 6-4, 6-1 win over Stanislas Wawrinka.
“I think that in the first set today I was in trouble for a long time,” said Nadal. “He was doing his serve much better than I was and I only won one point before 5-4 and for the whole game, my serve was hard. The important thing was that I was very concentrated because he was playing very well and perhaps better than me in the beginning. But from the 5-4, I started to play it well.
“I don’t think I played my best match tonight. I think that the level in Monte-Carlo was unbelievable and the final I played unbelievably and also in the semi-final too. I played well (today) but I was probably playing better in Monte Carlo.”
In the semifinals tomorrow Nadal will meet the surging 21-year-old Ernests Gulbis who thwarted hopes of an all-Spanish semifinal by defeating Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 6-1.
“Nadal – I played him twice before, on grass at Wimbledon and Madrid on fast indoors,” said Gulbis, 0-2 lifetime against Rafa. “I never played him on clay; it’s going to be something special, a new goal for me to have a chance to play against him on clay.”
The unseeded Gulbis will play in his first career ATP Masters semifinal while Nadal is bidding to tie Andre Agassi’s record of 17 career Masters shields this week with his fifth Rome title.
In the earlier semifinal, Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco meets David Ferrer. Verdasco earned a hard-fought struggle over Novak Djokovic 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 in 3-hours, 29-minutes.
“I think if you have to look at something (that made the difference) then it was my mentality,” said Verdasco who has won 12 of his last 13 matches. “How I was taking the match up in the important points like that tie-break in the first set and also how I felt the match in the last game because he didn’t give me an easy time. So, if I need to look at something then, it is the way I controlled the situation.”
The win was Verdasco’s second in the last three weeks over Djokovic, and firmly puts Hot Sauce in the conversation with his fellow Spanish lefty as top contenders for the Pairs title later in four weeks.
“I’m happy with the way I played, so definitely the French Open is the place where I want to get a good result,” said Djokovic a Rome winner in 2008 and finalist last year. “Obviously I’m very disappointed to lose the match. I was very close to victory and I know that this match could have gone either way; only a couple of points decided the winner. But he won because he played well and he deserved to win.”
Ferrer had another easy day at the office taking out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-1. But tomorrow he’ll face a player in Verdasco who’s beaten him three straight times and six of nine overall.
“He’s a very tough player (Verdasco) and looking at his results this year on clay, he’s one of the best,” said Ferrer. “Every time I play him I know it’s a very tough match and so I hope tomorrow is going to be different. I will need my very best tennis if I want to beat him.”
CENTER COURT start 1:30 pm
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs  F Verdasco (ESP)
Not Before 4:00 PM
E Gulbis (LAT) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
 L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT) vs  B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA)
PIETRANGELI start 12:00 noon
P Cuevas (URU) / J Monaco (ARG) vs J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA)
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