After four years, Rafael Nadal has entered his first grass-court final. The last time he made to the final in a grass court tournament was in Wimbledon 2011, when he lost to Novak Djokovic. On Saturday at Stuttgart, he beat Frenchman Gael Monfils to set up the title clash with Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, who earned his place in the final by beating Croatia’s Marin Cilic. In the Topshelf Open, no.7 seed David Goffin of Belgium advanced to his fourth ever ATP World Tour final by defeating Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller. For the title clash, Goffin will play against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, who disappointed local fans by defeating Robin Haase. Among women, two rising stars, Swiss Belinda Bencic and Italian Camila Giorgi will be face-to-face in the final. Bencic caused an upset by beating Serbian Jelena Jankovic, while Giorgi got the better of local hope Kiki Bertens. At the women-only Aegon Open tournament in Nottingham, no play was possible because of rain.
For nearly two years now, Rafael Nadal has not been among title winners at ATP world-tour matches. After losing to Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open in 2014, he recorded victories at the Mutua Madrid and French Open last year but other than that he has been on a decline. His Emirates ranking is now down to no.10. But the fighting Spaniard doesn’t want to give in just yet. He won at Stuttgart in 2005 and 2007 but those days, the tournament was held on clay courts, where Nadal was the king. On Saturday, he scored against a plucky Gael Monfils in the Stuttgart’s semifinal. It was the best match of the tournament for the 14-time Grand Slam winner, who had to struggle against the likes of Bernard Tomic and Marcos Baghdatis in earlier rounds. Against Monfils, the Spaniard converted two break points that came on offer and saved four against himself. This was the difference between him and Frenchman, though the score-line of 6-3, 6-4 doesn’t give any indication of the real struggle in the match. For the title on Sunday, Nadal will have to get past Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, who defeated the Croat second seed Marin Cilic in three sets. The eighth-seeded Troicki sent down 19 aces compared to Cilic’s 13 in a 2 hours 22 minutes match to prevail 6-3, 6-7, 7-6.
At s-Hertogenbosch, David Goffin of Belgium reached the final of the Topshelf Open on Saturday by defeating Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-6, 6-4 in a 77 minute match. Goffin fired 9 aces and scored 91 per cent on his first serve. His final opponent is Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, who disappointed the Netherlands fans by defeating Dutchman Robin Haase 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. After losing the first set, Mahut bounced back in the match and ended the challenge from Haase in a little over 2 hours.
In women’s draw, fast rising Swiss woman Belinda Bencic shocked the experienced Jelena Jankovic. In a whirlwind game, Bencic took the first set 6-3 and opened up 3-1 lead in the second set before Jankovic rallied to make it 3-3. But the Young Swiss reeled off the next three points and closed the match at 6-3, 6-3. In the final on Sunday, Bencic will meet another rising star from Italy Camila Giorgi. The Italian caused one more heartbreak at s-Hertogenbosch by taking out local hope Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-4 in the second semi-final.
At the Aegon Open in Nottingham, no play was possible on Saturday because of rain. All matches scheduled for the day were postponed to Sunday.