Nadal & Unseeded Mathieu Reach Semifinals

August 12, 2005 06:48 PM
Top-seeded Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals of the Rogers Cup on Friday, needing just 72 minutes to oust Mariano Puerta of Argentina 6-3, 6-1 in a rematch of the French Open final.

Nadal will face unseeded Paul-Henri Mathieu on Saturday. The Frenchman defeated Karol Beck of Slovakia 6-1, 6-2.

After Nadal's afternoon match, play was delayed by rain. Fourth-seeded Andre Agassi was still to face sixth-seeded Gaston Gaudio of Argentina, and Greg Rusedski of Britain was scheduled to play Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia.

The 19-year-old Nadal, who has shown every sign of being the sport's next superstar, has not lost a service game all week, despite an unpredictable serve.

"It's the first time I'm in a semifinal without losing a serve," he said. "That's a good improvement because you know, the serve is not the best part of my game.''

It was too much for Puerta.

"He doesn't have the fastest serve, but he places it well," Puerta said. "His balls have a lot of kick and it makes it hard to attack his serve.''

This battle of the two left-handed players was easier for Nadal, as Puerta struggled on the quick hardcourt, making frequent unforced errors.

Nadal has won eight tournaments this year, all on slower clay courts, and is seeking his first career hardcourt win. He has 63 wins this season, most on the ATP tour, and is ranked second in the world behind the injured Roger Federer of Switzerland.

Nadal has made no secret he'd like to face Agassi for the first time in the final this week, although he first has to get by Mathieu, who upset No. 3 Andy Roddick in the first round.

"I would love to play Andre, but I know from experience that every match is difficult,'' Nadal said. "I have a very tough semifinal.''

It will be the first semifinal of the year for the 23-year-old Mathieu.

Beck had reached the quarterfinals with upsets over fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko of Russia and ninth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina.

"I knew he won two tough matches so I tried to make him move,'' Mathieu said.