Federer, Nadal will clash in semifinal

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

PARIS -- Imperious and nearly impervious, Roger Federer plays the beautiful game. Muscular and macho, Rafael Nadal is, like the uncle who inspired him, "The Beast."

Federer is the top player, Nadal the hottest, and their straight-sets victories on a cool, overcast afternoon at the French Open on Tuesday set up a semifinal collision that they, and virtually everyone else, knew was coming.

The only shame is that the duel between the Swiss and the Spaniard, the best players on the ATP Tour this year with 11 titles between them, is not for the championship.

Federer's 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-3 quarterfinal win against Romania's Victor Hanescu was as pedestrian as Nadal's 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 romp over Spanish compatriot David Ferrer.

Nor were there many thrills in the women's quarters as 2000 champion Mary Pierce easily knocked out top-seeded Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 6-2, again keeping the American from winning the only major to elude her, and 2003 champ Justine Henin-Hardenne stopped Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-2.

A tournament that so far has been devoid of grand theater should have its fill Friday when Federer continues his quest for a career Grand Slam and Nadal celebrates his 19th birthday on center court.

Nadal's uncle and mentor, former soccer star Miguel Angel Nadal, took pride in his nickname "The Beast of Barcelona." Young Rafael's first love was soccer, and he inherited his uncle's dynamic style and athletic talent. Under the tutelage of another uncle, Miguel Angel's brother Toni, Nadal transferred those attributes to the tennis court and quickly rose in the rankings after turning pro at 15 a little more than three years ago.

Always bouncing on his toes or running with boundless energy, Nadal has won 22 straight matches, all on clay, and is seeking his sixth title of the year.

Federer, 46-2 with six titles this year, plays a more elegant game than Nadal and is showing that he can win as easily on clay as he has on other surfaces. He's won 11 straight matches and 28 straight sets on clay.

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