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HindustanTimes Sun,23 Nov 2014

Tennis

Nadal, Serena send French Open signals of intent
AFP
Madrid, May 13, 2013
First Published: 08:20 IST(13/5/2013)
Last Updated: 08:22 IST(13/5/2013)

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams firmed up their credentials as French Open favourites by sweeping to victory in Madrid.

Nadal eased to his fifth title in just seven tournaments since returning from a seven-month injury layoff due to tendinitis in his left knee as he beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-4 in little over an hour to claim his third title in the Spanish capital.

He now has 55 career titles with 40 coming on clay, an astonishing record that prompted Wawrinka to describe the Spaniard as a "killer" on clay courts.

His win on Sunday was also a 23rd Masters Series title.

Having also won on the clay in Sao Paulo, Acapulco and Barcelona this season, the 11-time Grand Slam champion looks well set for a tilt at an eighth French Open crown at Roland Garros.

"It's true these last matches I have been able to reach that goal, that line, that place where I want to be playing, the kind of play that I'm aiming for," he said.

"Since we started playing on clay in Europe, these last two matches are the best I have played. I've realised that my forehand is working again at its highest level and I'm able to open the angles and play a lot of winners.

"I couldn't do that in Barcelona or Monte Carlo; over here I could. I was playing with a lot of aggression."

However, the world number five still refused to accept that he is the clear favourite for Roland Garros, which starts in two weeks, and insisted his mind is solely set on retaining his title in Rome this week.

"Next week I will be in Rome and I will be thinking about Rome. I won't be thinking Roland Garros," said Nadal.

"Tomorrow I will be in Rome practicing a little bit, and I need to adapt to conditions which are a little bit slower than here.

"Hopefully that should not be a problem, but I need to do it, and I need to do it with the right concentration."

Williams, meanwhile, has a second title at Roland Garros firmly in her sights as she claimed a title on the red clay for the first time since that triumph 11 years ago with a 6-1, 6-4 win over world number two Maria Sharapova.

The world number one ranking was also on the line as the two met for the third time already this year, but it was a familiar story for Sharapova as Williams extended her nine-year winning streak over the Russian to 12 matches.

"This court definitely plays more like Roland Garros, so I think that's a plus. It's a little slower than it was last year and plays more like a true clay court so I think it's great preparation," said Williams who now has 50 career titles.

And the 15-time Grand Slam champion is determined to make up for the disappointment of losing in the first round in Paris last year.

"It is the ultimate challenge. Whether I reach it, I don't know. I'm not going to put that pressure on myself.

"I wanted to last year and I didn't get it. So this year I'm just looking forward to Rome, and then after that Roland Garros, and see what happens."


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