TENNIS: Nadal wins in Rome |

TENNIS: Nadal wins in Rome

Associated Press

ROME (AP) – 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 on Saturday.

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 to 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.