World No. 1 Rafael Nadal needed two tiebreaks and a last-gasp service break to beat unseeded Viktor Troicki on Saturday and claim his place in the Japan Open final against Gael Monfils of France.
Troicki served for the match in the third set, but Nadal broke and squeezed by in a tight tiebreak to win 7-6 (7-4) 4-6, 7-6 (9-7).
The Spaniard, who stayed out late to watch a soccer game after breezing through Friday night’s quarterfinal, started off slowly against Troicki, ranked 54th in the world.
Both players held their service games, but Nadal turned up the power in the tiebreaker and sealed the first set with an ace.
Troicki took the first two games of the second set. Nadal nearly broke back in the sixth game, but the Serb hit back with two aces to widen his lead to 4-2, and held on to force the third set.
In the deciding set, Nadal delivered two returns right on the line to break in the eighth game, but had trouble placing his first serves and allowed Troicki to even it up at 5-5, before he again broke Nadal’s service to pull ahead.
Serving for the match, Troicki double faulted, missed an easy volley and then hit a forehand into the net, sending the set into another tiebreaker. Squandering a lead, Nadal hit three returns long, then saved himself at match point with a cross-court return that caught Troicki flat-footed. After an ace, Nadal took the match with a deep shot that Troicki hit wide.
“I played well in the first set, but then I lost my concentration,” Nadal said, adding that his semifinal loss last week in the Thailand Open hurt his confidence. “The season is long and we compete with a lot of pressure, so it is easy to lose your concentration. That is what happened.”
Monfils promised an aggressive match in the final.
The No. 5 seed, Monfils breezed to a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Czech Radek Stepanek to secure his berth, playing a strong game on the net and firing off six aces, to just two for Stepanek.
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