Tuesday 23 January 2018 / 01:36 AM

French Open – Rafa Warming To Task

Rafael Nadal finally put his foot on the gas at Roland Garros on Wednesday afternoon to storm through to the semi-finals in straight sets at the expense of Stanislas Wawrinka.

The seven times champion had been distinctly underwhelming in his performances en route to the last eight of the tournament but all that changed in front of a packed Philippe Chatrier that was treated to a true clay master class by the Spaniard who completed his 6-2 6-3 6-1 rout of the Swiss in well under two hours.

Wawrinka, understandably half spent from his gruelling five set war against Richard Gasquet in round four, came into the match having never won a set against Nadal and the magnitude of his task was emphasised in no uncertain terms in the first game when he was broken to love effortlessly by a man clearly on a mission to force through necessary improvement required to defend his title come the weekend.

Another break midway through the set guaranteed Rafa a swift early advantage and the momentum continued at the start of the second as Nadal broke again to leave Wawrinka teetering on the brink.

Wawrinka’s best moment of the match came against the run of play shortly after however, the Swiss breaking back to 3-3 following a pair of unforced errors from Nadal at deuce.

Nadal quickly restored order nevertheless, breaking his weary opponent to lead 4-3 before closing out the second with minimal fuss.

And the job was complete barely twenty minutes later, Wawrinka picking up merely a consolation game in the third as Nadal breezed through impressively to boost his confidence ahead of Friday’s mouth-watering semi-final clash with Novak Djokovic, who also enjoyed a straight sets win over Tommy Hass on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

The World No.1 was made to graft by the admirable veteran who, at one stage, looked in with a chance of making things very interesting after leading the second set tie break.

Djokovic turned things around in his usual warrior like style however to take a two set lead after winning the first 6-3.

And after a hard fought third which included an array of tough, high quality rallies, the Serbian wrestled a crucial break to close out the contest 6-3 7-6 7-5.

Both Nadal and Djokovic will really fancy their chances of triumphing in the final should they reach it, with David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried-Tsonga lying in wait for the winner.

In the Women’s draw, defending champion Maria Sharapova recovered from a first set whitewash against Jelena Jankovic to prevail in three sets 0-6 6-4 6-3, whilst Victoria Azarenka cruised past Maria Kirilenko 7-6 6-2 to set up a last four clash with the Russian.

Serena Williams and Sara Errani will meet in the other semi-final after victories against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Agnieszka Radwanska respectively on Tuesday.

Williams produced one of the most battling displays of her career to emerge 6-1 3-6 6-3 whilst Errani triumphed 6-4 7-6 to record the first success of her career against a top four ranked player.

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Nick Cook

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