Following two exciting semi-final contests, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Alexandr Dolgopolov will meet in the inaugural Rio Open final. While many expected an all-Spanish final between the top two products from that nation, Dolgopolov had different plans as he eliminated David Ferrer to arrive at his first ATP World Tour final of the season. He is yet to defeat the top seed, with the Nadal vs Dolgopolov head-to-head standing at 4-0.
Top seed Rafael Nadal had to work his way through three gruelling sets against fellow countryman Pablo Andujar to arrive at his second ATP tour final of the season. While his opponent hit no aces, Nadal was forced to defend 11/14 break point opportunities against him in his 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(10) victory. He is now into his 88th tour-level final, seeking a 43rd clay court trophy.
Following his impressive showing against Fabio Fognini in the quarter-final round, Alexandr Dolgopolov topped that performance with a straight sets victory over world No. 4 David Ferrer. 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.The win snapped an eight match winning streak for Ferrer and set up an interesting final with word 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.”
This marks the fifth time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Nadal leading the series with a perfect 4-0 score. The first win came on clay, while the remaining three took place on hard courts. Dologpolov played his most competitive match against the Spaniard in their clay court encounter, yet was unable to win more than seven games. The Ukrainian is playing some of the best tennis of his career and can certainly make this final a fairly interesting one if he is able to harvest that momentum against Nadal. Rafa was troubled in his semi-final contest, which lasted a gruelling three sets, and could possibly be fatigued ahead of the final.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Three Sets