Nadal adds another record to streak

Nadal's winning streak on clay is still going and it reached 75 with a 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Novak Djokovic at the Rome Masters tennis Championship.

sports Updated: May 12, 2007 11:59 IST

Put Rafael Nadal on a clay court in Rome and the records start falling.

Two years ago, the Spaniard beat Guillermo Coria to win the Rome Masters in 5 hours, 14 minutes - the longest final in the Open Era. Last year, Nadal edged Roger Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker for the championship and tied Guillermo Vilas' record 53-match winning streak on clay.

Nadal's winning streak on clay is still going and it reached 75 on Friday with a 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Novak Djokovic. That matched John McEnroe for the longest winning streak on one surface. McEnroe, who watched Friday's match from a courtside seat, had a 75-match winning streak on indoor-carpet between September 1983 and April 1985.

"I wasn't thinking about that. I was just thinking about the semifinals," Nadal said. "Djokovic is a tough match." Nadal can break McEnroe's record in Saturday's semifinals against fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, who rallied to beat Tommy Robredo 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

If he wins the tournament, Nadal would set another mark, becoming the first player to win this French Open warmup three consecutive times. Thomas Muster and Jaroslav Drobny - a Czech from the 1950s - also won in Rome three times, but not in succession. Nadal last lost on clay in April 2005.

"He's playing incredibly," Djokovic said.

Earlier, Filippo Volandri followed his win over Roger Federer by beating 12th-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-3, becoming the first Italian to reach the final four in Rome since Adriano Panatta in 1978.

Panatta also was the last Italian to win the tournament, in 1976. "This is beyond my own expectations," said Volandri, who entered on a wild-card invitation. "I had a little bit more pressure than yesterday, but I played another perfect match." Volandri will next play sixth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez, who defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-4..

Nadal has been complaining of dizziness and a stomach problem, but they haven't affected his game.

Toward the end of the first set, Nadal hit balls on the lines and passing shots with such ease that even Djokovic applauded by clapping his hand to his racket.

"I played my best game, for sure," Nadal said. "I was 100 percent for every point. Right now, I have a very good feeling for my game."

Djokovic was the last player to beat Nadal - on hard courts in the quarterfinals in Key Biscayne, Florida, in March _ but the Serb looked fatigued from winning the Estoril Open last week and two tough matches in Rome.

For the second straight day, the 53rd-ranked Volandri gave his highly favored opponent trouble with his steady groundstrokes and deep service returns.

Volandri committed only 14 unforced errors to Berdych's 32, and did not face any break points.

"It's another decisive result, which means opponents are having trouble against me because I'm playing at such a high level," Volandri said.

Similar to his straight-set win over Federer on Thursday, Volandri was aided by the partisan crowd. After each point Volandri won, fans clapped inflatable balloons provided by a sponsor. "Another day with the stadium completely full _ it means a lot to me," Volandri said.

It's the first time Volandri has reached the semifinals of a Masters series event.

"For it to happen here, I couldn't ask for more," he said.

First Published: May 12, 2007 10:55 IST