Nadal digs deep to beat Federer
Rafael Nadal battled back from a set down to beat Roger Federer 5-7 6-1 6-3 on a day of high emotion at the Madrid Masters.
Spain is in mourning following the death of Seve Ballesteros and Nadal appeared close to tears as the Caja Magica paid tribute to the golfing great ahead of the match.
Nadal, a keen golfer, had played with Ballesteros in the past and dug deep to extend his winning streak on clay to 37 and in so doing paid his own tribute to his fellow countryman.
Nadal dominated the early exchanges and Federer looked out of sorts as a string of miscues and low first-serve percentage allowed Nadal to secure an early break.
Federer mixed things up, charging the net on occasions in a bid to unsettle Nadal and it paid off as he held serve to get on the board. The Swiss, a former winner of the Madrid Masters on clay in 2009, worked break points on the Nadal serve in the fourth game but he failed to convert as Nadal hit his way out of trouble.
However, the fourth game seemed to spark Federer into life as he gradually upped his level and he broke through in the eighth game. Both players appeared to feed off each other as they traded winners, with Federer earning the break point with a forehand winner and forced the error out of Nadal with some brutal hitting.
Federer grew in confidence and this was highlighted with an audacious drop shot that Nadal did not even attempt to chase down. Federer found his first serve for the first time in the match when 0-40 down at 5-5 as he dug himself out of trouble and then went on the attack. He earned a set point with a sublime crosscourt backhand pass and a forehand winner secured the set.
Nadal stepped things up at the start of the second set, earning a break with a forehand that clipped the line. Federer disputed the call and vented his frustration at the umpire to no avail. Nadal sensed the frustration in his opponent and broke again for 4-0. Federer avoided the embarrassment of a bagel, but the momentum was with Nadal who opened up the final set with a love hold.
Federer had success with the drop shot earlier in the match, but it was read by Nadal in the fourth game and he chased one down to earn a break point and then let out a huge roar when his opponent threw a forehand long.
Nadal was in full flow by now and winners started to fly off his racket. Federer attempted to counter and won a brilliant point to earn a break opportunity, but a fine second serve from Nadal staved off the threat and he booked his place in the final when Federer netted a backhand.
Novak Djokovic extended his unbeaten run in 2011, but he was made to dig awfully deep to see off Thomaz Bellucci 4-6 6-4 6-1.
Djokovic looked laboured during his quarter-final win over David Ferrer and it was a repeat scenario against Bellucci.
Brazilian Bellucci, conqueror of Andy Murray, took the game to the Serb from the outset and his fantastic hitting on both wings helped him take the first set and move a break to the good in the second. But with the winning line in sight he faltered, allowing Djokovic to break twice in rapid fashion to draw level.
And Djokovic seemed to shake the fatigue out if his body in the third set as he roared into the final with an ace.