Nadal and Djokovic set up Sunday scorcher

Spaniard beats Murray in 100 minutes; Djokovic prevails over Gulbis

The belated appearance of the blazing sun at what had been a cold and chilly French Open until Friday allowed Rafa Nadal to scorch past Andy Murray and set up a hotly-anticipated final with Novak Djokovic.

Murray's bid to become the first British man in 77 years to reach the Roland Garros showpiece wilted away in a 6-3 6-2 6-1 pasting by the world number one who now stands just one win away from lifting the Musketeers' Cup for a ninth time.

To do that he will need to beat his great Serbian rival, who showed Ernests Gulbis that a French Open final is no place for a tennis wild child as he beat the Latvian 6-3 6-3 3-6 6-3 to keep alive his dreams of completing a career grand slam.

While Djokovic spent some of his youth honing his world-beating tennis skills in a drained swimming pool in Belgrade, Gulbis, the son of one of Latvia's richest men, was busy enjoying the high life.

Djokovic's two-decade long dedication to his craft was clear for all to see on Friday as despite struggling with the heat late in the third set, he hung in there to finish off the match in four sets and spare his reddening coach Boris Becker from opening up a second bottle of sunblock.

"I'm glad I won in four sets because if it went to a fifth, God knows in which direction the match could go," the six-times grand slam champion said after beating his childhood friend.

"Suddenly midway through the third set I started to feel physically fatigued a little bit. You could see that both me and him, we struggled on the court."

Nowhere was that struggle more evident than in the fourth set because after Gulbis had broken back in the third game, Djokovic's anger boiled over.

He smashed his racket on the red dirt and left it a mangled mess. With the crowd loudly whistling at his petulance, he raised his arms to apologise before giving the racket another bashing by slamming it to the ground behind his bench.

Becker, who spent the changeovers applying more and more sunblock on his arms and face, gestured to his charge from the stands to put an iced towel around his neck.

Djokovic heeded the German's advice and also donned a baseball cap before he returned to the task in hand and eventually broke for a 5-3 lead before sealing victory.


Gulbis produced some nonchalant dropshots, crafty angles and thunderous backhands but never really threatened to stop Djokovic from setting up a 42nd meeting with Nadal.

Djokovic rattled through the final game to love, sealing the match with a bone-crunching forehand that left Gulbis stirred and shaken following his first foray into a grand slam semi.

"I'm not used to playing these kind of big matches. It's just normal I felt extra nervous and extra tense ... it was a struggle out there," said Gulbis, who is said to have travelled to junior matches on his father's private jet and helicopters.

Murray will also be jetting out of Paris earlier than he would have wanted after being subjected to a 100-minute mauling on Nadal's personal playground, with the Scot winning just 10 points on the Spaniard's serve.

There had been much talk of whether Murray's new-found confidence after winning two grand slam titles since the last time they met at Roland Garros, in the 2011 semi-finals, would allow him to break Nadal's 5-0 claycourt hold over him.

But the Spaniard took all of 10 minutes to snuff out those ambitions as he romped to a 3-0 lead and from there on there was an air of doom hanging over the British camp.

Nadal simply did not allow the match to become a real contest on the hottest day of the championships, with the mercury touching 28 degrees Celsius, and a rip-roaring smash ended Murray's misery.

Not much went Murray's way on Friday but if there was one statistic that summed up his forgettable afternoon - Nadal won six out of six break points while the Wimbledon champion won none from none.

"That's the toughest match I have played against him," Murray said after losing for the 15th time in 20 meetings against the champion.

"He served well and I didn't return well. Simple. He was just battering the next ball into the corner.

"It was a bad, bad day."

For Nadal, it was a brilliant day.

The top seed's Roland Garros win-loss record now stands at 65-1 and only the brave would bet against Nadal becoming the first man to win five successive titles at the home of claycourt tennis when he takes on Djokovic on Sunday.

"As a kid it was my dream to play here at Roland Garros, after 10 years of coming here to be playing in my ninth final is unbelievable," the Spaniard said after chalking up his 34th consecutive victory on the Paris clay.


It's all over as Nadal easily overhauls Murray to enter the final of the French Open. Murray was totally out of wits playing the Spaniard. Murray 1 Nadal 6

Murray did put a fight in this game and at 30-all it looked Murray could make a surge. But Nadal won to move ahead to 40-30 before Murray fought back to take it to deuce. Nadal did not flutter as he took the next two points to seal the game. Murray 1 Nadal 5

Breakpoints have become a common thing for Nadal in today's match. Another two breakpoints for Nadal as he wraps it up in the first one. The only interesting in this game was the longest rally got registered that involved 24 shots. Murray 4 Nadal 1.

Nadal is totally dominating the proceedings for now. Murray has no answers to the Spaniard's brilliance. Murray 1 Nadal 3.

Too many errors from Murray as Nadal earns a breakpoint. Nadal charges in to finish it off as he earns the break. Murray 1 Nadal 2.

Another easy serve game for Nadal as he seals it without losing a point. Nadal on cruise for a brilliant win. Murray 1 Nadal 1.

Murray takes the first game but not before fighting a hard battle as Nadal fights to get to 30-all. Murray wins the next two points to win it. Murray 1 Nadal 0.


It's all going easy for Nadal as he wins four straight points to win his game to seal the second set. Nadal leads 2-0. Murray 2 Nadal 6.

Nadal does an exceptional job to get a double breakpoint. Murray looks to be struggling with his serve as he concedes the game with a shot to the net. Murray 2 Nadal 5.

Nadal holds his serve as he still holds a fine lead on course to win the second set. Murray 2 Nadal 4.

Murray dominates his serve to wrap it with easy. At 40-15 he had an unforced error to bring Nadal closer to 40-30 before Nadal hits it wide to seal the game. Murray 2 Nadal 3

Everything going easy for Nadal as he holds on to his serve dropping only a single point. Murray not impressed at all. Murray 1 Nadal 3.

Explosive forehand shots coming from Nadal as Murray could just stand and wonder. The Spaniard has two breakpoints and he takes the break in the first one. Murray 1 Nadal 2.

Nadal takes his first game of the second set quite easily. He will look to wrap the following games also as quickly as possible. Murray 1 Nadal 1

Fine start from Murray in the second set as he wins the game without dropping a point. Murray 1 Nadal 0


Murray does his best to force a break but Nadal is terrific form at the moment. A double fault did give Murray a slight hope but Nadal does everything right to wrap the first set. Nadal 6 Murray 3.

Murray holds his serve though he lost two crucial points. Nadal serves for the first set. Nadal 5 Murray 3.

Nadal's just too strong making Murray run all over the place. Easy game for Nadal as he takes it in four striaght points. Nadal 5 Murray 2

It's an easy game for Murray as he drops just one point before taking it. He is still a break down against the Spaniard.
Nadal 4 Murray 2

Strong baseline shots from Nadal. His forehand looks rock solid. Murray did fightback taking two points to make it 40-30 but Nadal got the crucial point to win his service. Nadal 4 Murray 1

Stunning forehand winners from the Spaniard and Murray has not clue. Murray does get his serves spot on including an ace as he wins his first game. Nadal 3 Murray 1.

Nadal keeps his serve without much fuss as he surges to a comfortable lead. Nadal 3 Murray 0.

Two breakpoints for Nadal as early as the second game shows the Spaniard's form. Murray has to be wary of it. Nadal 2 Murray 0.

Nadal begins his semifinal campaign against Murray in style easily winning his first game dropping just one point. Nadal 1 Murray 0.

Both Nadal and Murray begin warming up. It's surely not going to be an easy one. In the other semis, Djokovic defeated Gulbis in four sets.


Eight-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal goes into his ninth Roland Garros semi-final Friday warning of the dangers posed by opponent Andy Murray who has never won a claycourt title.

Nadal, who boasts an astonishing record in Paris of 64 wins and just one loss, has defied the critics who wondered whether he would make it this far after he suffered his worst season in a decade on European clay with three losses.

But despite dropping just one set on his way to another last-four date in the French capital, he appreciates the threat of Murray who pushed him to three sets in Rome last month.

"I'm not impressed by the way he's playing on clay. I am not answering in a bad way.  I'm saying in a good way. He can play very well on all the surfaces. He's a candidate to win Roland Garros," said the 28-year-old Spaniard of the Wimbledon champion.

Murray will attempt to become the first British man in 77 years to reach the French Open final.

Bunny Austin was the last Briton to get to the men's championship match in 1937 while Fred Perry was the country's last winner in Paris two years earlier.

But Murray is making a habit out of shredding the history books - his Wimbledon triumph last year ended Britain's 77-year wait for a men's title winner.

The 27-year-old lost to Nadal, who is bidding to be the first man to win five French Opens in a row, at the same stage in Paris in 2011 without winning a set.

In fact, Murray, who has 5-14 career record against Nadal, has lost all of his five meetings on clay with the Spaniard.

Despite the facts and figures stacking up against him, Murray believes he has the mental and physical weapons to shatter the Nadal legend.

Unlike his loss in 2011, Murray is now a two-time Grand Slam title winner himself.

"I obviously know how to win these tournaments now; back then I didn't. I was trying extremely hard, but I had never done it," said Murray who has has yet to win a claycourt title and has never made the final on the sport's most challenging and wearying surface.

Nadal's famed armour

But he believes that there are cracks, albeit small ones, in the famed Nadal armour that can be exploited and he saw enough in Rome to justify his confidence.

"I definitely learned some things in that match. It was quite clear in my head, as well, what was working and what wasn't," he said.

"It was obviously different conditions here and a different court, different balls. When we played in Rome it was extremely cold and wet. I have been told it's meant to be 25 or 26 degrees on Friday."

The weather could play a crucial role with Nadal preferring warm, sunny weather which allows him to dictate the pace of the game and the ball.

Friday's second semi-final sees world number two Novak Djokovic, who needs a French Open title to become just the eighth man to complete the career Grand Slam, tackle outspoken Latvian Ernests Gulbis who will be playing in his first semi-final at a major.

Djokovic is playing in his fourth successive French Open semi-final having been runner-up to Nadal in 2012.

Gulbis, seeded 18, has a 1-4 losing record against Djokovic with whom he trained in his youth at the Niki Pilic academy in Munich.

The 25-year-old, so long the sport's enfant terrible, has finally matched up hard work to his undoubted talent and reached the semi-finals by knocking out fourth-seeded Roger Federer and then sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych.

In 2014, only Nadal has won more matches than the controversial big-hitter from Riga.

"He plays really well. He has a huge serve that, if it goes in, it can give him a lot of advantage," said Djokovic.

"He knows how to move, how to anticipate. He's definitely going to be aggressive and going to go for his shots against me. That's his style."

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