Nadal triumph puts Wawrinka on the hot seat

Updated: 2013-11-10 07:57

By Reuters in London(China Daily)

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Rafa's victory vaults Swiss upstart into semifinal clash with Djokovic

If Stanislas Wawrinka's life depended on the outcome of one tennis match, he would surely want Rafa Nadal fighting in his corner. And while the stakes were not as high as life or death on Friday, the Swiss player's fate was in safe hands.

Having beaten David Ferrer 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1 to claim his second Group A victory at the ATP World Tour Finals, Wawrinka knew a Nadal win later against Czech Tomas Berdych would send him through to the semifinals, along with the Spaniard.

Nadal was already guaranteed his place in the last four, but any thoughts of the Mallorcan going through the motions and conserving energy were quickly dispatched as the world No 1 went about his work with his usual intensity.

Berdych pushed the 27-year-old all the way and thundered through the second set in 29 minutes, but Nadal pulled out all the stops to earn a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory, sealing top spot in the group and avoiding a semifinal clash with Novak Djokovic.

"In the end I play for myself, 200 (ranking points)," Nadal said when asked about the implications of his win for Wawrinka.

"I went on court as if I am playing for the qualification. I knew (after winning the first set) that I had won the group, but it was important to finish that match the way that I did. I'm very happy for that," added Nadal, who is still in line to earn the $1.9 million for an undefeated champion.

Wawrinka now has the daunting task of trying to derail Djokovic's bid to retain the title - but the Swiss isn't intimidated.

The 28-year-old was the only first-time qualifier at the tournament and with wins over Berdych and Ferrer he has proved he belongs in such exalted company.

Even in losing 7-6, 7-6 to Nadal he played superb tennis, actually winning more points than the Spaniard, and Djokovic will be wary of his threat, especially after their epic tussles at the Australian and US Opens this year.

"I can only be really happy with the tournament; it doesn't matter what happens tonight," Wawrinka told reporters after beating Ferrer, although he admitted he would be glued to his TV later, rooting for Nadal.

'Fantastic tennis'

Wawrinka may have felt relaxed enough to change channels and search for a movie after Nadal broke Berdych's serve in the opening game on his way to claiming a first set in which he bludgeoned the Czech all over the spectacular O2 court.

Berdych had lost 14 consecutive matches to Nadal, a morale-sapping sequence dating back to 2006, but he is made of stern stuff these days and was not going to give up on his semifinal hopes without at least unloading some heavy artillery.

Nadal, who had won only four points in five games, managed to hold serve to avoid an unthinkable bagel against his name, but Berdych belted down more aces to complete a breathtaking set.

Berdych, who still has the Davis Cup final against Djokovic's Serbia to look forward to, neatly summed up the difference on the day.

"Those two double-faults gave him that game," he said. "That game I didn't handle well. That's the difference between No 6 and No 1."

Nadal will now have a day to rest and watch six-time champion Roger Federer try to become the second Swiss player in the semifinals by beating Juan Martin del Potro in a shootout for runner-up spot in Group B.

"If it's Del Potro, if is Federer, both players know very well how to beat me, on this surface especially," said 13-time Grand Slam champion Nadal, who is assured of finishing the year as world No 1.

"The only way to win the match of semifinals is playing my best match, playing fantastic tennis."

Nadal triumph puts Wawrinka on the hot seat

(China Daily 11/10/2013 page7)