World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is through to his second ATP World Tour final of the season, where he will meet unexpected finalist Alexandr Dolgopolov in the inaugural Rio Open final.
Rafa had a surprisingly difficult task in the semi-final against Pablo Andujar. The Spaniard dropped the opening set 6-2 to his fellow countryman, going down a double break in the opening 20 minutes of the match. He managed to recover in the second set, where he went up 6-3 to force a deciding set. The battle waged on in the third, until Nadal finally managed a break in the sixth game to take a 4-3 lead, but Andujar would not be tamed and broke back in the following game to level the score at 4-4. From there the match went to a tiebreak, where the two competitors thrilled the spectators in attendance with several match points before Nadal finally prevailed 12-10 to advance to the final.
Dolgopolov trailed Ferrer 7-1 in their head-to-head series heading into their semi-final encounter on Saturday, with his only victory coming on the clay courts of Nice in 2011, but he appeared to be an entirely different player in this particular contest, as he managed to eliminate the Spanish No. 2 in straight sets to arrive at his first ATP World Tour final of the season. The Ukranian was in cruise control during the opening hour of the contest, as he earned the break in the seventh game and stormed to a 6-4 lead in under 60 minutes. He quickly jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second set, and maintained the break lead to defeat the second seed in straight sets.
The Ukrainian hit 4 aces, 32 winners, 77% of his first serves and saved 3/4 break points to muscle his way into the final against world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing and happy to be in the final,” said the Ukrainian. “My game plan is always to be aggressive against [Ferrer]. I attack and try to play aggressive. I was a bit better at the volleys and that made the difference I think.”
The Rio Open final takes place on Sunday afternoon.