Nadal downs Tsitsipas to reach 50th Masters final

Nadal downs Tsitsipas to reach 50th Masters final

Konta faces Pliskova for Rome title

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning against Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas during their ATP Masters tournament semi-final tennis match at the Foro Italico camp in Rome. AFP photo

Defending champion Rafael Nadal swept past Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 to advance to his 50th Masters final and first on clay this season at the Italian Open on Saturday.

The eight-time Rome winner had been stunned by Tsitsipas, seeded eighth, in the semi-finals at the Madrid Open last weekend.

But the 32-year-old Spaniard was clinical on the red clay of the Foro Italico, winning through in 1hr 42min to reach the final for the 11th time.

"It's an important victory for me," said Nadal. "I played a solid match against a good player who is winning a lot of matches on this surface. Last week I didn't play very well in Madrid. Today I did better."

Nadal, seeded second, was playing his fourth straight semi-final, but had not managed to go further on clay this season.

But he has not dropped a set so far this week and next plays either world number one Novak Djokovic or Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who meet in the second semi-final.

Nadal's run to the Rome final comes just a week before he starts his assault on a 12th French Open title at Roland Garros.

"The feeling is that I am playing better every week, every day. That's important for me," he said.

"It's not a drama to lose in semi-finals. The main thing is to recover my level.

"I say in Madrid I was playing better, then I played a bad match in the semi-finals, true.

"But my feeling, especially after my loss against (Dominic) Thiem in the semi-finals of Barcelona, I think my personal feeling improved and my energy came back a little bit."

"I've been through some tough moments after Indian Wells. Recovery of the knee again... was not easy to come back and to prepare myself the right way."

Tsitsipas, meanwhile, was at a loss to explain his performance as he fell to his fourth defeat in five matches against the Spaniard.

"I'm the same person as I was last week. Nothing changed," he said.

"He (Nadal) is in good shape. I think I learned a lot these three weeks. It's good to come into a Grand Slam knowing what you've done well."

Britain's Johanna Konta fought back from a set down to seal victory on her fourth match point against Kiki Bertens to reach the WTA final.

Konta, ranked 42, came through 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 against sixth seed Bertens, winner of the Madrid Open last week, after almost three hours on the red clay of Rome.

Dutchwoman Bertens had advanced to the semi-finals after world number one Naomi Osaka of Japan retired with a hand injury before their match Friday.

Konta next meets Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova who eased past Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4 in 88 minutes.

Pliskova and Sakkari last met in the second round at the Foro Italico in 2018 when the Czech, furious at a line call, smashed a hole in the umpire's chair after losing in three sets.