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Nadal and Soderling on course for final showdown

Last updated on: June 3, 2010 21:42 IST

Nadal and Soderling on course for final showdown



While champions have crashed all around him at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal has arrived at the French Open semi-finals unruffled and bang on course to reclaim his crown.

The Spaniard, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday, is now overwhelming favourite to add to his four French Open titles after storming into the last four without losing a set.

What is more standing in his way on Friday is Jurgen Melzer, the Austrian who had never once been beyond the third round of a grand slam tournament until this week.

Melzer, the first Austrian man since Thomas Muster in 1995 to reach the semi-final of a grand slam, produced an inspired comeback to beat Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, one of many upsets at this unpredictable tournament.

The biggest in the men's draw once again involved Robin Soderling, the Swede who is the only man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros. He was at it again on Tuesday when he knocked out defending champion Roger Federer in four sets.

Soderling faces Tomas Berdych in the top half after the Czech accounted for Britain's fourth seed Andy Murray on the way to his first grand slam semi-final.

Only Nadal's progress has been predictable and he looks set to get the perfect chance to avenge last year's fourth round defeat by Soderling in Sunday's final should they both play to form in the semis.

"I never think about revenge," Nadal told reporters after beating compatriot Nicolas Almagro on Wednesday.

"I'm in the semi-finals against Melzer and it will be a very difficult match. I'm focused on that match right now."

The pair has met only twice, with Nadal winning each time, and a Melzer victory would top any of the shocks seen here so far.

Soderling, who lost to Federer in last year's final, will also start as favourite against Berdych.

The fifth seed's form has been as, if not more, impressive than Nadal's here so far and he has dropped just one set.

In the last 16 he overpowered Marin Cilic and some of his sledgehammer forehands against Federer were simply unplayable.

A year after announcing himself as a major player by beating Nadal on his beloved Court Philippe Chatrier, Soderling now looks like a man who truly believes he can win a grand slam.

First, though he has to deal with Berdych, a player he lost to this year in Miami. "He's a dangerous player when he's playing good," Soderling said.

Image: Rafael Nadal
Photographs: Reuters

Stosur thrashes Jankovic to reach final

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Australia's Samantha Stosur needed just one hour to thrash fourth seed Jelena Jankovic and reach the French Open final on Thursday.

Stosur, who put out four-times champion Justine Henin and world number one Serena Williams en route to the last four, sauntered to a 6-1, 6-2 victory on Court Philippe Chatrier.

She is the first Australian woman to reach a grand slam final since Wendy Turnbull in 1980.

The world number seven has now gone one better than last year when she fell at the semi-final stage and will face fellow grand slam final debutant Francesca Schiavone in Saturday's final.

Image: Samantha Stosur and Jelena Jankovic

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Schiavone reaches final as well

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Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman in the Open era to reach a grand slam singles final on Thursday when Elena Dementieva retired after one set of their French Open semi-final clash.

Schiavone, 29, had just taken the first set on a tiebreak when a tearful Dementieva walked over to shake hands.

Looking stunned Schiavone went down on her knees and kissed the red clay on Court Philippe Chatrier before holding her hands aloft to the crowd.

"This is fantastic," Schiavone said on court.

"I still don't know what going on but I've made history for Italy and myself and I'm going to enjoy the final."

Image: Francesca Schiavone

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Injured forces Dementieva to quit

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Russian fifth seed Dementieva, who had been struggling with a left thigh injury earlier in the event, won the first two points of the tiebreak but then lost the next six.

She made one winning volley to save a set point but pulled down the peak of her sun shade and appeared to be crying when she hit a backhand long to give Schiavone the set.

The Russian was a losing finalist in 2004, coming up second best against compatriot Anastasia Myskina.

Image: Elena Dementieva

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