AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal crushed Fernando Verdasco for the 13th time in his career on Saturday to set up a fourth Barcelona Open final with long-time rival David Ferrer.
The title showdown will be a repeat of the 2008, 2009 and 2011 finals which were all won by Nadal. French Open champion Nadal, fresh from winning an unprecedented eighth straight title at Monte Carlo last weekend, overwhelmed Verdasco 6-0, 6-4 in just 85 minutes with four breaks of serve. Third seed Ferrer had a tougher afternoon, requiring just over two hours in defeating huge-serving Canadian Milos Raonic 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5).
Nadal has dominated the Barcelona event, winning six titles in seven previous appearances. On the one occasion he didn’t play — he missed 2010 with knee problems — Verdasco took the honours. Nadal’s victory was his 38th winning semi-final in a row on clay, with his last loss coming against Carlos Moya in August 2003.
Raonic had turned in a breakthrough week on the clay of the Real Club de Tenis, winning all of his matches in straight sets. He defeated Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and upset second-seeded, world No 4 Andy Murray in the quarter-finals.
The 21-year-old, ranked 25th, threatened early in the opening set against Ferrer but could not convert on four break chances. Raonic saved six set points before Ferrer finally clinched it in the tiebreaker from the Canadian’s netted forehand.
In the second set, the pair stayed on level-pegging, with Raonic saving the lone break points of the set in the 11th game. In the tie-breaker, Raonic salvaged a match point. But Ferrer advanced on his second opportunity from a Raonic error. Ferrer improved to 28-4 this season with three titles.
STUTTGART: Maria Sharapova hopes to claim her first title of the season in Stuttgart claycourt final against top seed Victoria Azarenka following her semi-final win over Petra Kvitova.
In Saturday’s last four tie, Sharapova needed just under two hours to see off Kvitova to claim revenge for her defeat in the 2011 Wimbledon final and secure a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) victory. Having lost to world No 1 Azarenka twice already in the three finals she has contested this season, the Russian is hoping for fourth-time lucky.
Azarenka booked her place in the final with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska. It was the fifth time this year Azarenka had beaten the Pole having already seen off the world No 4 on hardcourt in Sydney, at the Australian Open, Doha and Indian Wells.
It was their first meeting on clay, but Azarenka needed just 24 minutes to blitz Radwanska to take the first set as the Polish managed just 11 points. In the second, the Belarusian kept up the pressure with an impressive selection of shots, but despite claiming her 10th overall victory over Radwanska in just 77 minutes, Azarenka insisted it had been far from easy.