2 Aug 2015

Nadal reaches Hamburg final

2:15 pm on 2 August 2015
Rafael Nadal celebrates his win over Gail Monfils, Stuttgart, 2015.

Rafael Nadal celebrates his win over Gail Monfils, Stuttgart, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Rafa Nadal has made light work of Italian Andreas Seppi to reach the final of the Hamburg Open.

He'll face Fabio Fognini, also of Italy, who is chasing an almost unthinkable third claycourt victory over the Spaniard this season.

Nadal, a 14-times grand slam champion, has endured a difficult year, surrendering his French Open title, suffering a shock defeat by journeyman Dustin Brown at Wimbledon and dropping to number 10 in the rankings.

He has struggled since being sidelined by injury and illness last year and has only two relatively modest titles to his name in 2015 -- Stuttgart and Buenos Aires.

For a player who has made a habit of hoovering up claycourt trophies in his career, he heads into Sunday's final looking to maintain his record of winning at least one European claycourt title every year since 2004.

Having eased past Seppi 6-1 6-2 in 80 minutes, Nadal will face Fognini for the third time this season with the Italian claiming wins in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.

Fognini, ranked 32nd in the world, is just the second player to inflict multiple claycourt defeats on Nadal in a single season after world number one Novak Djokovic.

The Italian, who won the Hamburg title in 2013, beat French qualifier Lucas Pouille 6-2 7-6(2) on Saturday to reach the final.

Meanwhile, the big-serving John Isner stayed on track for his third consecutive Atlanta Open title when he outlasted fellow American Denis Kudla in a tight semi-final.

John Isner

John Isner Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The top seed, Isner, won a battle of attrition against the unseeded qualifier, converting his second match point to triumph 4-6 6-2 7-5 in one hour 43 minutes under a blazing afternoon sun on the outdoor hardcourt.

The match appeared to be heading to a tiebreak in the third set before Isner rallied from 30-0 down in the 12th game. He eventually clinched victory when Kudla uncharacteristically sent a crosscourt backhand sailing wide.

Isner said a more aggressive approach to his service returns in the second set was the key to victory.

Isner, who lost a five-set thriller to Marin Cilic in the third round at Wimbledon last month, has won nine ATP titles.

He next faces Gilles Muller of Luxembourg or Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis who meet in the other semi-final.