Nadal loses set, but gains Rome Masters final
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Rafael Nadal withstood a serious test from Ernests Gulbis before finally wearing down his 40th-ranked opponent to pull out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win in the semifinals of the Rome Masters yesterday.
It was the first time in nine matches on clay this year that Nadal dropped a set.
"It was a really hard match and I didn't play well," Nadal said. "It's really difficult to play against Gulbis. His serve was really unbelievable."
Routinely putting first serves in at 133 mph, Gulbis didn't allow Nadal his usual rhythm on his return game and the Spaniard converted only two of 12 break points.
Nadal broke Gulbis in the opening game of the match and didn't do it again until the final game.
Upon sealing the 2-hour, 46-minute match, Nadal let out a big scream and jump with a series of fist pumps.
"I was really happy that I won such a difficult match," Nadal said. "The mental part was very good for me."
Nadal will be aiming for his fifth Rome title in six years when he meets David Ferrer in today's title match. His fellow Spaniard beat a sluggish Fernando Verdasco, 7-5, 6-3, to advance to the first Masters Series final of his career.
HENIN, STOSUR REACH PORSCHE GP FINAL
Justine Henin beat Shahar Peer of Israel, 6-3, 6-2, at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany yesterday, advancing to her third final in five tournaments since coming out of retirement in January.
Peer got no presents on her 23rd birthday from the former world No. 1, who is looking for her first title of the year.
"I made mistakes but I was good enough today," Henin said. "I just have to keep going and be aggressive. When I am aggressive my game is so much better."
Henin will play in today's final against Samantha Stosur of Australia, who defeated qualifier Anna Lapushchenkova, 7-5, 6-3.
ARMSTRONG SPURS YOUNG AMERICAN
The future of American cycling out-raced the biggest name in the sport during the fourth stage of the Tour of the Gila at Silver City, N.M.
Taylor Phinney beat seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and a number of other high-profile riders yesterday, and gave Trek-Livestrong back-to-back victories following Jesse Sergeant's stirring victory in a time trial.
"Lance pretty much changed my life," said Phinney, the reigning under-23 world champion whose parents are Davis Phinney, a former gold medal-winning Olympic cyclist, and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, a well-known speed skater.
"When I saw him race, I was just blown away with the sport and I told myself that this was a true sport," Phinney said of Armstrong. "I then thought to myself that I would give it a try since my mom and dad were pretty good at it."
Now the attention shifts to the overall race standings today, where Armstrong's teammate Levi Leipheimer will try to protect his lead during the 40-lap final stage — dubbed "The Gila Monster Road Race" — in downtown Silver City.
FORMER NO. 2 RIDER DIES IN PRACTICE RUN
Motocross star Andrew McFarlane died from serious head injuries today after crashing during a practice lap at an Australian national championship meeting in Victoria State.
The 33-year-old McFarlane, once the second-ranked rider in the world, was flung from his bike at the State Motorcycle Sports Complex at Broadford during the third round of the MX National Motocross championships. He died at the scene.
Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said paramedics worked on McFarlane for more than an hour but were unable to revive him.
Motorcycling Australia confirmed the death in a statement today.
"McFarlane received immediate treatment from medical staff at the track," the statement said. "MA and Victoria Police are now both investigating the incident."
HUSKIES' WOMEN, MEN RETAIN TITLES
Washington's rowing teams dominated the 24th Windermere Cup yesterday in Seattle.
The UW men's eight, the No. 1 collegiate team and defending national champion, completed the course in 5 minutes, 39.9 seconds. No. 10 Syracuse finished in second, 9.7 seconds back, and Oxford was third.
The UW women's eight, ranked ninth in the country, finished in 6:27.9. They beat Syracuse by 16.4 seconds and Oxford by 27.1 seconds.