World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is one set from reaching his first clay-court final of 2019. The eight-time champion leads #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia semi-finals.
Nadal is 20-5 on the season and he has reached the semi-finals in all four clay-court events he has played, including Rome this week. But the 32-year-old has not made a championship match since the Australian Open, and he is seeking his first trophy of the year. If he emerges victorious this week, Nadal will stand alone with 34 ATP Masters 1000 crowns.
The second seed wasted no time revealing his intentions in this match, breaking Tsitsipas in the 20-year-old's first service game with an open-stanced forehand passing shot down the line. Nadal saved the only two break points he faced in the set in the next game, lashing another forehand winner to stave off one chance before Tsitsipas missed a backhand return wide.
Nadal relentlessly attacked the Greek's backhand early, stepping into the court to go after every short ball without hesitation. Tsitsipas achieved greater depth with his shots to gain a 0/30 advantage as Nadal served for the set, but Nadal won four consecutive points to seal the opener after 49 minutes.
Last week at the Mutua Madrid Open, Tsitsipas became the youngest player to defeat Nadal on clay, earning his first victory against the Spaniard in four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. Nadal had won the first seven sets contested between them.
If Tsitsipas comes back to reach the final at the Foro Italico, he will become the second player to beat Nadal in back-to-back clay-court tournaments, joining World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (2011 Madrid & Rome).