Hamburg, Aug 2 (IANS/EFE) Spanish tennis top seed Rafael Nadal advanced to the final of the bet-at-home Open here with a lopsided 6-1, 6-2 victory over Italy’s Andreas Seppi on Saturday.
Seppi, who had reached the semifinals of this clay-court event after countryman Simone Bolelli withdrew on Friday due to gastroenteritis, found himself down 5-0 after just 25 minutes of play before finally getting on the scoreboard by breaking Nadal’s serve.
The Spaniard, however, broke once again to claim the first set and then raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set against the fourth-seeded Italian, who only held his serve once in eight tries.
Nadal called for the trainer in the third game of the second set and received treatment on his right pectoral muscle, but after some stretching and taking a pill he resumed play and dominated the action as convincingly as before.
The world no. 10 squandered a chance to serve out the match at 5-1 when he double-faulted on break point, but he broke Seppi for the seventh and final time in the ensuing game when the Italian steered a forehand wide on match point.
The Italian had a day to forget, putting just 47 percent of his first serves in play, striking no aces and winning a higher percentage of points against Nadal’s serve (35 percent) than on his own (33 percent).
The 29-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, improved his 2015 record on clay to 25-6 and moved to within one victory of his 47th career title on his favorite surface, which would leave him just two shy of the record held by former Argentine great Guillermo Vilas.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion, who has struggled this season on all surfaces and seen his ranking slip to its lowest point since April 2005, opted to play this clay-court event to boost his confidence ahead of the start of the North American hard-court season, which will culminate with the US Open, to be played from August 31 to Sept. 13.
Nadal will square off in Sunday’s Hamburg final against another Italian, eighth-seeded Fabio Fognini, who defeated French qualifier Lucas Pouille 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) in the first semifinal.
Fognini had lost all four of his matches against Nadal prior to 2015, but he upset the Spaniard twice earlier this year at clay-court events in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.