Rafael Nadal sweeps past Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach Italian Open final

Konta, ranked 42, came through 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 against sixth seed Bertens after almost three hours on the red clay of Rome

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns a forehand to Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas during their ATP Masters tournament semi final tennis match at the Foro Italico camp in Rome, on May 18, 2019. / AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTE
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Defending champion Rafael Nadal swept past Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 to advance to his first final on clay this season at the Italian Open on Saturday.

The eight-time Rome winner had been stunned by Tsitsipas, seeded eighth, in the semi-finals at the Madrid Open last weekend.

But the 32-year-old Spaniard was clinical on the red clay of the Foro Italico, winning through in 1 hour, 42 minutes to maintain his record of having not dropped a set this week.

Nadal next plays either world No 1 Novak Djokovic or Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who meet in the second semi-final.

Nadal, seeded second, was playing his fourth straight semi-final, but had not managed to go further on clay this season.

His run to the Rome final comes just a week before he starts his assault on a 12th French Open title at Roland Garros.

In the women's draw, Britain's Johanna Konta fought back from a set down to seal victory on her fourth match point against Kiki Bertens to reach the final at the Italian Open on Saturday.

Konta, ranked 42, came through 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 against sixth seed Bertens, winner of the Madrid Open last week, after almost three hours on the red clay of Rome.

Dutchwoman Bertens had advanced to the semi-finals after world No 1 Naomi Osaka of Japan retired with a hand injury before their match Friday.

Konta next meets Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4 in the second semi-final.

“After I lost the first set, I mean, I didn’t do much wrong," Konta said.

"It was a very good set of tennis. Equally the second set, as well. There wasn’t anybody putting a bad foot out of line.

“In the third, I definitely felt that I was able to maintain my level a bit better than her. I think that gave me the upper hand in stringing some more points together. I’m just very happy to have come through.

"The light bulb just went off. I don't necessarily feel like this is massively out of the blue or super wow. But I'm definitely pleased.

"I've never really doubted my ability on the [clay] surface.

"That's a big achievement in my career so far. It's my second biggest final behind Miami."

Konta, a former Australian Open and Wimbledon semi-finalist, reached the world No 4 ranking in July 2017 but has struggled for form since.

Her three career titles have all been on hard court - most recently in Miami in April 2017.

"When I was younger or even in my young professional career, I won most of my titles on clay," said the Australian-born player.

"I won a lot of my first junior titles, first professional titles on clay. I've always felt that I have a game that has the ability to do well on this surface.

"It's unfortunate in the previous couple years I didn't get as many opportunities as I would have liked to have done better results-wise."

Konta became the first British woman to reach the final of the tournament since Virginia Wade in 1971.

"It was tough conditions out there today with the wind," said Bertens. "I couldn't stay calm, I couldn't play my points.

"I had a great two weeks. I have a couple of days to rest now, then go to Paris [French Open]. I think anything can happen there."