Rafael Nadal today brushed aside the challenge of Germany’s Rainer Schuettler to advance to Sunday’s Wimbledon final.
Nadal will face defending champion Roger Federer for the title for the third straight year after beating unseeded Schuettler 6-1 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 in a minute over two hours on Centre Court.
The second seed will therefore have another chance to become only the third man in the Open era – after Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg – to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.
Federer will be seeking his sixth straight title after easing past Marat Safin in straight sets in the day’s first semi-final.
Nadal said: “I’m very happy to be in the final another time, Wimbledon is a very good tournament for me. I will try to play my best tennis on Sunday.
“Today maybe wasn’t my best match here this year but I won in three sets which is very important for me. I’m in the final with very good confidence.
“I know the best player in the world is on the other side of the net in Roger. I feel I have to play very well to have a chance to win.
“Anything can happen, I know he is playing well but I am playing well too.”
Nadal breezed through the opening set in just 23 minutes, making just one unforced error as Schuettler looked drained from his epic quarter-final win over Arnaud Clement, at five hours and 12 minutes the joint second-longest match in Wimbledon history.
Since winning their first meeting four years ago, Schuettler had failed to win a single set from Nadal in three matches.
Improving that record looked a distant dream after the opening set but the 32-year-old stunned the Centre Court crowd by breaking Nadal for a 2-1 lead - only the fourth time in the championships Nadal had lost his serve.
Schuettler was unrecognisable from the nervous wreck who had capitulated in the early stages, wrong-footing Nadal on several occasions with winners on either wing.
But the nerves kicked in again as he tried to serve for the set at 5-4, two woeful forehands way over the baseline allowing Nadal to break back easily.
Nadal then raced into a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, aided by two more forehand errors from his opponent, and took it 7-3 for a two sets to love lead.
At 94th in the world, Schuettler is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals since Goran Ivanisevic, who was 125th when he won the title in 2001.
A repeat of Ivanisevic’s fairytale victory was never on the cards however, Nadal quickly breaking serve in the third set to strengthen his stranglehold on the match.
Nadal was bleeding from a graze on his left knee but it was a self-inflicted wound rather than any damage inflicted by Schuettler, who was proving a game, but limited, opponent.
Even Nadal’s Hawk-Eye challenges were unerringly accurate and the Spaniard could even afford to squander three match points on Schuettler’s serve before wrapping up victory.