/ Tennis

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to clash in French Open final

Updated: Friday, 06 Jun 2014 21:26 | Comments

Rafael Nadal  has dropped just one set en route to the French Open final
Rafael Nadal has dropped just one set en route to the French Open final

Rafael Nadal will bid for an unprecedented ninth French Open title against Novak Djokovic on Sunday after crushing Andy Murray at Roland Garros.

Reaching the last four had exceeded many people's expectations for Murray, although he insisted not his own, but he appeared to completely run out of steam ideas.

Nadal was never under the slightest pressure and Murray won just 10 points on his opponent's serve in a 6-3 6-2 6-1 loss that lasted just an hour and 40 minutes.

There was no disguising the size of the task that faced Murray when he walked out onto Court Philippe Chatrier.

Nadal had lost just one of his 65 matches at Roland Garros and none of the last 33.

He had beaten Murray in straight sets when they met in the last four in Paris three years ago, while the Scot had only beaten one top-10 opponent on clay in his career.

Murray had also spent four and a half hours longer on court than Nadal having played his first two five-set matches since back surgery.

For the first time all tournament it was hot and sunny, the conditions Nadal loves best, and it was the Spaniard who made a flying start.

Murray won a 22-shot rally on the first point but quickly found himself 3-0 down before steadying the ship to hold serve.

The pair had met for the first time in nearly three years in Rome three weeks ago, and Murray very nearly emerged victorious.

On that occasion he had blitzed Nadal in the first set but the conditions were cold and damp, helping Murray push the Spaniard back.

It was the British number one doing most of the chasing this time, and he could not find a way back into the set, Nadal serving out with ease.

Nadal's forehand, the extreme topspin sending the ball pinging off the clay, was simply ferocious.

The Wimbledon champion had hit his backhand with stunning power and timing in the previous two rounds but he did not seem to have enough energy to wrest any form of control away from Nadal.

The world number one was playing superbly and a Murray forehand wide gave him a break for 2-1 in the second set.

Nadal had revealed earlier in the tournament that the back pain that so compromised him in the Australian Open final against Stan Wawrinka had returned, forcing him to take some pace off his serve.

But there was nothing wrong with his serve on Friday, Murray managing just six points against it in the first seven games.

Nadal was winning so comfortably that the atmosphere was completely flat, and the top seed moved further ahead with another break for 5-2.

That quickly became a two-set lead as Nadal served out to love.

Murray's hopes of a comeback appeared to be virtually nil, and even more so when Nadal broke serve once more for 2-1.

The crowd felt the need to generate their own entertainment with a Mexican wave that held up play for a good couple of minutes.

Murray could have been forgiven for just wanting the torture to end as quickly as possible, and Nadal moved closer with another break to lead 4-1.

Murray tried desperately to hold onto his serve one more time but to no avail, Nadal clinching victory on his first match point with a simple smash.

Djokovic reached his second final at Roland Garros after a four-set win over Ernests Gulbis.

Djokovic, who is chasing the one grand slam title still to elude him, snuffed out a fightback by his Latvian opponent to win 6-3 6-3 3-6 6-3.

The Serbian lost to Nadal in the final in 2012 and becomes just the sixth man in the Open era to make multiple finals at each slam.

The consolation for Gulbis after the best grand slam tournament of his career is he will make his top-10 debut when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Gulbis, who played at the same academy in Germany as Djokovic when both were teenagers, described his belated dedication to tennis as "jumping on the last train".

Things started well for Gulbis, who won the first six points, and it might have been different had he taken either of two break points in the fourth game, but Djokovic held and then broke serve the following game.

One break in the eighth game of the second was enough for Djokovic, who was only having to find first gear on a few points.

That changed at the start of the third set, though, as Gulbis at last found the thumping winners and consistent aggression that had taken him this far.

Djokovic managed to stave off break points in the second and sixth games, the crowd finally seeing the exchanges they would have hoped for.

But a backhand threaded down the line gave Gulbis the break for 5-3 and he served out the set with an ace down the middle.

Djokovic looked to have taken a stranglehold once more when he broke for 2-0 in the fourth but he then played a very poor game to hand it straight back, taking his frustration out on his racquet by smashing it violently on the court.

Given Gulbis' reputation for breaking racquets, it was a surprise, and an indication of the pressure Djokovic was feeling, that he was the first to really lose his cool.

However, the Serbian rarely fails to raise his game when needed and it was the same again.

Djokovic took control of the rallies to force a break point in the eighth game and Gulbis sent a backhand long.

That left the second seed serving for the match, and he clinched it to love.

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use
Powered by NewsWhip