Related News

Home » Sports » Tennis

Nadal outlasts valiant Verdasco in marathon

TOP-RANKED Rafael Nadal outlasted fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 last night to reach the Australian Open final after the longest match in the tournament's history.

The fans were riveted as the left-handed Davis Cup teammates went at each other for 5 hours and 14 minutes.

After all that, having saved two match points, 14th-seeded Verdasco served a double-fault to give Nadal the victory. There were no arguments, no gamesmanship, just great shots, with the momentum shifting on a handful of key points.

The previous longest match at Melbourne Park came in 1991, when Boris Becker needed 5 hours and 11 minutes to beat Italian Omar Camporese, with the fifth set going 14-12.

Nadal earned the right to try to keep second-ranked Roger Federer from tying Pete Sampras' record of 14 major titles tomorrow. Federer advanced to his 18th grand slam final with a straight sets win over Andy Roddick on Thursday.

With the arena's namesake, Rod Laver - a pretty good lefty in his own right - in the crowd and Spanish flags scattered around, Nadal found his renowned defense tested to the limit as Verdasco ripped 95 winners. But while he bent, he never broke, committing fewer than 10 unforced errors in every demanding set, including just four in the fifth.

The first set went 75 minutes of long rallies more associated with a match on clay than a hardcourt.

Nadal was serving at 4-3 in the tiebreaker when Verdasco ran off the last four points. The key shot was a backhand that trickled over to give him set point. A sharp volley set up an easy overhead.

A cool change had come through in the afternoon to ease Melbourne's hottest three-day stretch on record - daytime temperatures topped 41 degrees Celsius - but the constant sprinting from sideline to sideline left both players draping ice packs wrapped in towels around their shoulders during changeovers.

The high quality of the tennis had fans giving standing ovations to both players for outstanding shots.

Another tiebreaker loomed in the second set with Verdasco serving at 4-5, 40-15. This time it was Nadal, who had been looking a little puzzled and less confident than usual, running off four points in a row.

They swapped four service breaks in the third set, and the second tiebreaker quickly went Nadal's way.

He called for the trainer to massage his left calf for apparent cramps twice during changeovers early in the fourth set but the third tiebreaker was all Verdasco as he raced to a 6-0 lead to force a deciding fifth set.

Verdasco saved five break points in the fifth set before finally faltering. Serving at 4-5 he fell behind 0-40 to set up three match points for Nadal. He saved two with swinging volley winners, then double-faulted - only his fourth of the match. Both players dropped flat on the surface before Nadal got up, jumped over the net and gave his friend a hug.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend