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Nadal vs. Murray semi set
CHRIS LEHOURITES
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 02 - 06 - 2011

PARIS: Playing a bit like he's still upset about his only loss at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal defeated Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (3) Wednesday to reach the French Open semifinals for the sixth time.
The five-time champion, who lost to Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 but then defeated him in last year's final, is 43-1 at the clay-court Grand Slam and two wins away from equaling Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles.
“I am through. I'm in the semifinals, so that's the thing,” Nadal said. “I have to be playing better and better every day if I want to have chances to win the final and that's what I'm going to try.”
Nadal will next face fourth-seeded Andy Murray. The Australian Open runner-up, who injured his right ankle in the third round, defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-2.
Murray's win ensured that the top four seeded players made the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament for only the 12th time in the Open era.
Also, Maria Sharapova and Australian Open finalist Li Na reached the women's semifinals. They will face each other Thursday.
Nadal was back on Court Philippe Chatrier to face the man who was responsible for his only blemish at Roland Garros.
But with the wind gusting — at one point blowing specks of red clay into Nadal's face — the fifth-seeded Swede struggled with his first serve, landing only 57 percent during the match.
Nadal, however, didn't appear to be bothered by the conditions, although he was broken twice. The top-ranked Spaniard made only 13 unforced errors, while Soderling had 41.
Emotionless for almost the entire match, Nadal was able to handle Soderling's hard forehand while keeping his opponent on the move by spraying shots to all corners of the court. And when he smacked a forehand winner to hold serve to 6-5 in the third set, the crowd roared.
Friday's other semifinal will be between defending champion Roger Federer and the seemingly unstoppable Novak Djokovic. The second-seeded Djokovic is 41-0 in 2011 and has won 43 straight matches dating to last year's Davis Cup final triumph for Serbia.
Nadal's semifinal opponent also had an easy time Wednesday.
Murray, who tore a tendon in his right ankle last week but still managed to win a five-setter in the fourth round, trailed Chela 4-1 in the first set before winning five of six games to force the tiebreaker. He broke early in both the next two sets and held on to reach his first French Open semifinal.
“I feel I can do it,” Murray said of his chances at Roland Garros. “It's just making sure that come Friday I play my best tennis. I have to play a very consistent match, and I have to be mentally strong.”
While Murray is in the French Open semifinals for the first time in his career, Sharapova returned to the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in more than three years, beating Andrea Petkovic 6-0, 6-3.
The three-time major champion, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a title at Roland Garros, last reached this stage when she won the 2008 Australian Open.
“I put a lot of work in to be in this stage of the Grand Slams,” Sharapova said. “I'm really happy that it's here. I'm going to have a chance to go further.”
Sharapova had little trouble against Petkovic, a German who also lost in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
Sharapova won the opening eight games and then overcame two breaks to take the second set.
Sharapova improved her Grand Slam quarterfinal record to 11-3 by beating Petkovic. All three of her losses came at Roland Garros.
But she had little trouble Wednesday Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Besides the Australian Open title, the seventh-seeded Russian also won Wimbledon in 2004 and the US Open in 2006. With a title at Roland Garros, Sharapova can become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam.
Li, who defeated fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-2, is more of a surprise semifinalist. Although she became the first Chinese player to reach a major final when she lost to Kim Clijsters at this year's Australian Open, the sixth-seeded Li even stunned herself by going this far.


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