Rafael Nadal defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach Italian Open final
The world No 2 will play Novak Djokovic in his 50th ATP Masters 1000 final
Last Updated: 18/05/19 11:18pm
Rafael Nadal looked more like his old, dominant self as he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4 to reach the Italian Open final.
It was a measure of revenge for Nadal after losing to Tsitsipas in three sets at this stage in Madrid last week.
This victory should also restore Nadal's confidence as he seeks a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.
"The main thing is I am playing better. If I play better, I know I'm going to have chances to be in finals and to win semi-final matches," Nadal said.
"If you are not playing well, [beating] the best players of the world is much more difficult. I have margin to keep improving. But, I am doing the right steps to be there."
Aiming for a ninth trophy in Rome, Nadal's opponent in Sunday's final will be his old rival Novak Djokovic.
Four-time champion Djokovic - who won the Madrid Open last week - beat Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-7 (2) 6-3.
Nadal is in the middle of his longest title drought to begin a season since he came onto the scene in 2004. His last trophy came last August in Toronto.
The crowd attempted to encourage Tsitsipas with chants of "Tsi-Tsi-Tsi, Pas-Pas-Pas" but the 20-year-old Greek player couldn't keep up with Nadal on the long rallies even though he didn't play a day earlier after Roger Federer withdrew injured from their quarter-final.
Conditions were much slower than on the high-altitude court in Madrid, which favored Nadal and made it tougher for Tsitsipas to execute his attacking game.
"The shots that I played today, I played similar shots last week," Tsitsipas said.
"Today those shots felt really slow and he had plenty of time to pass me when I was approaching to the net. The court speed was the difference."
Last week, Tsitsipas became the youngest player to defeat Nadal on clay however this time around, the world No 2 controlled proceedings from the word go and won in one hour and 43 minutes.
Nadal broke his opponent in the 20-year-old's first service game and sealed the opening set in a cool 49 minutes.
He punished with his intensity of ground-strokes, particularly off the forehand, and broke for a 2-1 advantage in the second.
From that point on, the Spaniard never looked back and if he prevails in the final will standalone with 34 Masters 1000 crowns.
His final opponent Djokovic said: "He [Nadal] is one of the greatest champions this game has ever seen.
"His mentality, his approach, his resilience, ability to fight back after a long absence from the tour, injuries, surgeries, he's had it all.
"He keeps on showing to the world why he's one of the biggest legends of tennis history. I have the greatest respect for him."
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