There was a ruthless streak in Rafael Nadal's game as the Spaniard demolished Davide Sanguinetti 6-3, 6-2 in exactly an hour to enter the semifinals of the $4, 36,000 Chennai Open tennis.
Undoubtedly the star attraction in this southern metropolis, Nadal had looked human against Karan Rastogi just a day back. But on Friday, it was almost a robotic Nadal who belted winners into the corners. He played at such a hot pace that the befuddled Italian looked like a bystander.
Earlier on, the Centre Court was treated to some aggressive tennis from Xavier Malisse, as he got rid off Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. But it was Nadal who once again had fans on their feet in the packed Nungambakkam Stadium. He wielded the racquet like a bludgeon and punished the fuzzy ball.
For the young girls inside, watching darling ‘Rafa’ was a treat. The long sweat-drenched locks had been pushed back with the bandanna. But as he covered the court with gazelle-like grace, Sanguinetti knew he did not have a ghost of a chance against Nadal.
Nadal's flourescent T-shirt and long green shorts added to his appeal as he had to generate his own pace in the rallies. The forehand, for sure, was one shot that one could have talked about till midnight. But the Spaniard also impressed with such sharp reflexes and court-craft that Sanguinetti just did not know what to do.
Sanguinetti, 34, represents the old generation clay courters who construct points and believe in subtle changes of pace as variety in rallies. There were exchanges when Sanguinetti sliced and diced, giving no space to Nadal. But whatever sanguine hopes the Italian had of challenging Nadal fell apart in no time as the top seed got breaks of serve with ease in the first set. The second set was almost heading for a whitewash before Sanguinetti held to make it 1-4. And though Sanguinetti tried hard with his lobs, he could not match Nadal. After the match, Nadal walked off to practice for half an hour! He then went to the locker room and took a cold water shower. "It was not a long match and I was feeling good. I just wanted to continue feeling good, so I went and practiced," said Nadal.
Talking about the semifinal against Malisse, Nadal said: "Malisse is a complete player and has all the shots. It will be a tough match but I am feeling good."
Fire in the belly
For Xavier Malisse, the third seed, this was one match where he showed fire in his belly. Up against Fabrice Santoro, Malisse stroked hard. He knew that Santoro, 34 and immensely experienced, was wily and with his unconventional double-grip shots could make it difficult. But as Malisse was to say after the match: “It was important for me to be aggressive from the start."
Results: (Q/F): Xavier Malisse bt Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 4-6, 6-0; Rafael Nadal bt Davide Sanguinetti 6-3, 6-2; Carlos Moya bt Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).