(AAP) – Rafael Nadal has beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4 to reach the Italian Open final.
Saturday’s victory was a measure of revenge for Rafa after losing to Tsitsipas in three sets at this stage in the Madrid Open last week.
The victory should also restore Rafa’s confidence as he seeks a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.
“I’m playing better every match, every weekend,” Rafa said.
Aiming for a ninth trophy in Rome, Rafa’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be either Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman, who play later.
Rafa 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 in Toronto last August.
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 Rafa on the long rallies – even though he was fresh from a rest day after Roger Federer withdrew from the quarter-finals.
Conditions were much slower than on the high-altitude court in Madrid, which favoured Nadal and made it tougher for Tsitsipas to execute his attacking game.
Midway through the first set, Rafa produced an awesome forehand winner up the line on the run, drawing a loud roar from the packed Campo Centrale crowd.
Rafa broke Tsitsipas’ serve early in both sets.