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Tennis: Emotional Nadal reaches Rome final, Serena rolls on

Nadal books a place in the Italian Open final after beating Tomas Berdych on Saturday

Reuters, Saturday 18 May 2013
Rafael Nadal
Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych during their semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Saturday, May 18, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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Rafa Nadal beat Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych 6-2 6-4 to reach the Italian Open final on Saturday with a dominant performance that he described as emotional after his long injury absence.

Nadal, who returned to action in February after seven months out with a knee problem, will have the chance to win his sixth title since his comeback when he faces either Roger Federer or Benoit Paire in Sunday's final.

The sport's dominant claycourt player was at his aggressive best in dismantling the heavy hitting Berdych, breaking in the first and fifth games of a one-sided first set before clinching a decisive advantage in the ninth game of the second.

Nadal wrapped it up when his opponent sent a backhand return long and then said he could not have hoped to be playing better after his lengthy layoff.

"I am feeling better physically," the 11-times grand slam winner said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Teledeporte.

"These are emotional moments for me as I think I have managed to turn around a situation in which after many months of doubts I am able to play at a level that I would not have dreamed of four months ago."

Serena Williams crushed Romanian qualifier Simona Halep 6-3 6-0 to book her place in the women's final and extend her winning streak to 23 matches.

World number one Williams, who is chasing a fourth consecutive tour title, will face Victoria Azarenka in Sunday's final after the third seed beat last year's French Open finalist Sara Errani 6-0 7-5.

Williams's unbeaten run has included title successes in Miami, Charleston and Madrid and she is chasing a first Rome title since 2002, the year she won her only French Open.

"I love the clay. I haven't had many wins at Roland Garros but I do love it," Williams told reporters.

"I was unhappy with some things today. I want to do well here as well as (in Paris)."

Williams' opponent was playing her first top-level semi-final and was bidding to become the first qualifier to reach the final in Rome.

Halep scored an early break of serve for a 2-1 lead in the first set but then wilted, winning just one more game as 15-times grand slam singles champion Williams steamrollered her way into the final.

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