Nadal to face Djokovic in final

Rome: World No 1 Rafael Nadal will play Novak Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters after their respective victories against Fernando Gonzalez and Roger Federer on Saturday.

World No 3 Djokovic is the reigning champion here and needs to retain his title or Britain’s Andy Murray will overtake him in the world rankings, while Nadal claimed the crown in the three previous years. Serbian Djokovic made the most of a rain break to transform his play and beat Federer 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a thriller.

Nadal had few problems in despatching Chilean 12th seed Gonzalez and the Spaniard broke his opponent four times on the way to victory. From the moment he opened up a 4-3 lead after a series of three breaks in a row, Nadal never looked back and romped to his 29th straight win on clay.

Porsche GP

STUTTGART: World no 1 Dinara Safina overcame a first set scare on Saturday to outclass unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 and book her place in the Porsche Grand Prix final.

Safina, who will play Russian compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova, turned her semi-final around in the second set after calling for her coach Zeljko Krajan, going on to recover from 3-1 down to win the second

7-5. In the third set plucky Pennetta, who beat last year’s finalist Nadia Petrova and Jelena Jankovic en

route to the semi-final, tired badly, having made the last four of the doubles competition, and failed to offer much resistance.

In the other semi-final fifth-seed Kuznetsova needed just 67 minutes to beat fellow Russian Elena Dementieva to reach her first final of the year. The 23-year-old was rarely troubled by Olympic champion Dementieva and having blasted through the first set in 38 minutes, Kuznetsova needed only 29 minutes to take the second.

Kuznetsova made an aggresive start to lead the first set 3-1 before Dementieva rallied to level the scores at 3-3, only for Kuznetsova to break again and then serve out the set. But there was to be no such comeback in the second as Kuznetsova again powered out to 3-1 and with the score poised at 5-2, Dementieva, ranked third in the world, was serving to stay in the match.

It summed up her luck that at 30-15 down on service in the final game, she hit the ball into the net to give Kuznetsova a match point when she only needed to tap the ball over with virtually the whole court at her mercy. Kuznetsova took her first chance to win the match and Dementieva was left to rue several missed opportunities.