Two of the biggest names in tennis will be looking to defending their 2012 titles on Sunday. In Barcelona, after an early rain delay tournament favorite Rafael Nadal won his 38th straight match there pounding Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-0 to set himself up with a shot for an 8th title at the event.
“I think it was my best match of the whole week,” said Nadal who was down 2-0 to the Canadian at the start. “He played a fantastic second game on the return. I won the third game, which was very important for the match, because if you are 3-love down against a big server like Milos, you’re in big trouble.”
Raonic, who trained in Barcelona, has never won a set off Nadal in three meetings and suffered his third career bagel in the second set.
Awaiting in the final will be Nicolas Almagro, an easy 6-2, 6-1 winner over Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Nadal has beaten Almagro all nine times they have played and Rafa’s run off the last 10 sets in a streak that includes the Acapulco final earlier this year.
“[Almagro] is playing great and having a fantastic week,” Nadal said. “Tomorrow will be the most difficult match of the week. Hopefully I can play my best match and take my chances.”
Added Almagro about the match-up, “Every match I play against [Rafa] is fantastic. I’m ready for everything, so we will see what I can do on court.”
Nadal has never lost to a countryman in an ATP final, he’s 12-0. And since returning in February Rafa has reached the finals at all six events he’s played. The win also was his 608th of his career tying him with tennis great Bjorn Borg on the all-time list.
Nadal seeks a 54th career title, Almagro his first of the year and 13th overall.
In the Bucharest final, the man who upset Nadal 10 months ago at Wimbledon has made another stunning re-appearance. Lukas Rosol is into his first ATP final after beating Gilles Simon in Bucharest. The Czech will play Nadal’s countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
“I knew that I could beat him if I played good tennis,” said Rosol after the 6-2, 6-3 win over Simon. “I’m happy because today my game was working really well. Tomorrow I hope to win my first final. I have a good record at Challengers, where I only lost one of my six finals. So I hope that I can continue this good run. For sure, this tournament will always be in my memory since I reached my first final here.”
Like Rafa, Maria Sharapova is also looking to defending her title from a year ago in Stuttgart. Sharapova won her third straight three set match toughing out home favorite Angelique Kerber 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
The Russian who won the French Open last year to complete her career slam has now won 29 of her last 30 matches on the dirt. She’ll face another French Open winner, Li Na, in the finale. Li ended the Cinderella run of qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 6-3.
“My level certainly dropped in the second, but I’m really happy with the way I fought through it in the third,” said Sharapova who’s won 29 of her last 32 3-set matches. “I’m really happy I was able to come through in this match. I did my job out there.”
Sharapova’s now won 15 straight matches on the dirt and 21 of her last 22 losing only to Serena in Madrid last year.
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