Nadal sets up Federer semi showdown; Sharapova reaches final

Nadal sets up Federer semi showdown; Sharapova reaches final
# 02 April 2011 02:50 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is looking forward to renewing his "special" tennis rivalry with Roger Federer in the semifinals of the Masters Series event in Miami on Friday, APA reports quoting CNN.
The duo, who have won 110 ATP Tour titles between them, will meet on U.S. soil for the first time since 2005 -- which was also the last year they clashed at the last-four stage of a tournament, the French Open.
Nadal battled past Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych in Thursday’s second quarterfinal after No. 3 Federer received easy passage when Frenchman Gilles Simon retired with a neck injury while 3-0 down in the opening set.
Nadal was beaten by Federer in five sets in the 2005 Miami final, having stunned the Swiss as a 17-year-old in the third round of the same event the previous year.
Since then Nadal has won 13 of their 20 clashes -- 12 of them in finals.
In the beginning I struggled to embrace the rivalry I had with Rafa. Only later on I was able to say, ’This is actually quite cool’.
"Very few times we’ve played in the semifinals of a tournament. The rest of the matches are finals and important for big titles," the Spaniard told the ATP website.
"It’s always special to play against him and have these matches, very important matches for both of our careers: finals of Roland Garros, finals of Wimbledon, of Australian Open, a lot of finals in Masters 1000s.
"That makes the rivalry very, very special. I don’t know if rivals in the rest of the history of tennis played as many matches as we’ve played."
Nadal will go into the showdown troubled by a worrying problem in his right arm, which affected his movement in the 6-2 3-6 6-3 win over last year’s runner-up Berdych -- who he also beat in the 2010 Wimbledon final.
"First time in my life I felt something like this, it’s really strange. Especially since the left arm I could do aggressive movements, but the right was really strange. Seriously, I couldn’t understand during the match what happened," the two-time Miami runner-up said.
Federer, also the 2006 champion at Crandon Park, has a 5-2 advantage over Nadal in hard-court events.
"I think in the beginning, early on in my career when I became the world No. 1, I didn’t really have that rival, and I was very happy about it," the 16-time grand slam champion said.
"I was just able to win, win, win, and dominate and go on and lose, you know, 10 matches in two years kind of thing. That was quite incredible. So in the beginning I guess I struggled to embrace the rivalry I had with Rafa.
"Only later on I was able to say, ’This is actually quite cool.’ Sleeveless, pirate pants, you name it -- long hair, lefty, spins, more with the flat shots and so forth, and double-handed against one-handed, lefty against righty. I think it all kind of made sense, and I was able to embrace it then.
"I think we had some good times in the past, and they have changed into what it is today. Really respectful and helping each other for good causes, foundation matches, you name it, for tsunamis. We’ve done so many things together. It’s been a lot of fun."
The winner of the Nadal-Federer tie is likely to face a player who is threatening to end their dominance of the men’s game, Novak Djokovic.
The Serbian is unbeaten in 22 matches this year, and defeated both icons on his way to victory at Indian Wells last time out.
His semifinal win over Federer in the California desert lifted him to second in the rankings, and he will be seeking his second Miami title if he can beat new American No. 1 Mardy Fish for the sixth successive time in Friday’s opening semifinal.
In the women’s event, two-time runner-up Maria Sharapova will play 2009 champion Victoria Azarenka in Saturday’s final.
Sharapova, who will return to the top-10 for the first time since 2009 following her recent run of good results, avenged her Australian Open defeat by Germany’s Andrea Petkovic.
The Russian triumphed 3-6 6-0 6-2, winning 11 games in a row after losing the first set.
"I’m really happy I’m back in the finals here," the 2005 and 2006 losing finalist said of her first Miami outing in four years.
"I’m almost lucky to be here. I had a tough one the other night and another three-setter today. Andrea has been playing the best tennis of her career and beat some good players here, so I was really happy I was able to change things around after losing the first set."
Eighth seed Azarenka of Belarus followed up her win over defending champion Kim Clijsters with a 6-3 6-3 win over Vera Zvonareva that ended the Russian’s hopes of reclaiming the No. 2 ranking from the Belgian this weekend.
Azarenka reached her 12th career WTA final, and will be seeking her sixth title.
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