Federer to renew rivalry with Nadal

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Federer to renew rivalry with Nadal

ROME - Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will renew their rivalry in the Italian Open final Sunday - exactly a week before the French Open starts.

In Saturday’s semifinals at the Foro Italico, Federer held off a stiff challenge from rising Frenchman Benoit Paire 7-6 (5), 6-4, and six-time Rome champion Nadal defeated sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4 - a day after Berdych rallied to beat top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

It will mark Nadal’s eighth consecutive final since his return earlier this year from a seven-month layoff due to a left knee injury. As for Federer, who recently returned from a seven-week break from the circuit, it will be his first final of the year.

“It’s nice to have these revival moments for both of us,” Federer said. “I’m sure we’re both looking forward to it. I clearly am. I hope it’s the same for him.”

In the women’s event, top-ranked Serena Williams moved within one victory of winning her fourth consecutive title this year. She’ll face third-seeded Victoria Azarenka in the final.

Williams overcame an early break of her serve to ease past Romanian qualifier Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 and extend her career-best winning run to 23 matches. Azarenka kept her concentration through two rain delays to beat seventh-seeded Sara Errani 6-0, 7-5.

The men’s final will mark the 30th meeting between Federer and Nadal and it will be a rematch of the 2006 Rome final that Nadal won in a fifth-set tiebreaker. These days, Masters series’ finals are best-of-three sets.

“We’re still similar tennis players but a lot of time has gone by,” Federer said. “But I think we still enjoy tennis as much as back then, maybe even more.”

The 17-time Grand Slam winner recounted how the 2006 final made him believe he could compete with Nadal even on clay.

“I thought, ‘If I can hang with him in Rome for five hours on clay, which is supposed to be his best surface, I can do it anywhere,’?” Federer said.

Nadal holds a 19-10 edge head to head against Federer, but they have split their last four meetings. AP

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