Nadal survives Moya marathon

CHENNAI, India – World No.2 Rafael Nadal overcame a dazzling challenge from veteran Spanish compatriot Carlos Moya to squeeze through to the ATP Chennai Open final yesterday. Nadal saved four match points in the second set before winning 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-1), in an enthralling four-hour semi-final that swung wildly from one side to another.

Top-seeded Nadal will clash with fourth seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in today’s final of the season-opening event.

The 19th ranked Youzhny gave Croatian youngster Marin Cilic a tennis lesson before cruising to a 6-2, 6-3, victory in the first semi- final.

Some 6000 fans at the packed centre court of the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium watched a stunning fight from their favourite Moya, who won here in 2004 and 2005 and was runner-up to Ivan Ljubicic in 2006.

The 31-year-old Moya, 10 years older than his rival and seeded third, outplayed Nadal in the first set tie-breaker in which he dropped only three points.

Nadal broke Moya in the fifth game of the second set, but was himself broken in the 10th while serving for the set which forced another tie-breaker.

Moya appeared to have the match sewn up at 6-3 in the tie- breaker, but Nadal hit back to make it 6-6 and saved another match point at 7-8 before taking the set at 10-8.

Moya, ranked 17th in the world, once again seized the advantage in the third set by breaking Nadal’s serve in the fifth game but faltered while serving for the match at 5-4.

Left-handed Nadal broke back to make it 5-5 and pressed home the advantage in the third tie-breaker of the match, conceding just one point.

“It was an unbelievable match, you don’t play games like these every day,” said Nadal, who lost in the semi-finals here last year to eventual champion Xavier Malisse of Belgium.

“I feel a bit bad for Moya who is a very good friend, but I am very happy that I could make it to the final.

“It is always an emotional time when I play against Moya. We both played a good game and I am sure the Chennai crowd loved it.”

Moya said he was disappointed to miss the chances that came his way, but pleased to have challenged Nadal.

“I thought I would win after gaining those match points in the second set, but I did not take advantage of that,” he said.

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