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All's well at Indian Wells for these two

Second-seeded Nadal overpowers Roddick and Serbia's Djokovic beats an ailing Murray to reach the men's final at the Pacific Life Open.

March 18, 2007|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Super Saturday?

It definitely was for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, convincing winners in the Pacific Life Open semifinals.

This is the first time either has reached the final at Indian Wells, and for Djokovic, a 19-year-old Serbian, it will be his first Masters Series final.

But it would be a leap to describe the two men's singles matches Saturday at Indian Wells Tennis Garden as "super." It took one set and one game before the second-seeded Nadal punctured No. 3 Andy Roddick's confidence and then took his game apart, piece by piece, in winning, 6-4, 6-3, in 74 minutes.

Having played his best tennis in months, does Nadal regret that he won't get a shot at Roger Federer, a shocking second-round loser here, in today's final? He answered with disarming honesty.

"What? Well, no, no, no," said Nadal, who reached his first final since Wimbledon last July.

"Seriously, no," Nadal added. "I prefer this one, anyone, I prefer Djokovic.... I don't know in the future, but right now I am not playing against the best of history."

Nadal got his wish. An ailing Andy Murray lasted just past an hour against No. 12 Djokovic. Murray, who dealt with a series of injuries in his quarterfinal against Tommy Haas on Friday night, was battered and unable to effectively change direction. Djokovic beat the 13th-seeded Murray, 6-2, 6-3, meaning the Serbian will land in the top 10 when the ATP rankings come out Monday.

"It was a pretty tough task when you've got an ankle and knee and hip problem to kind of move well out there and not really be cautious," Murray said. "And I was a little bit scared to move."

Murray called the trainer to the court in the second set and expressed concern about additional damage, and was reassured he wouldn't exacerbate his injuries. Still, the self-critical teenager second-guessed his decision to play.

"I had a bit of an unprofessional decision on my part to have gone on," Murray said. "Hopefully, I'll learn for next time that it's best to be cautious rather than going out and playing the match."

Said Djokovic: "It's not a pleasant sight to see your opponent playing like that. I think it was not so nice a match to watch, and people certainly expected something more."

Roddick admitted to being mystified by the strange turn of events in the Murray-Haas match. He was waiting for his food at a restaurant, he said, watching on TV in the bar, when Murray tweaked his ankle.

"These guys, they were saying, 'Oh, he's out for four months.' I said, 'I think he'll be running around in 15 or 20 [minutes] here.' And I won," Roddick said. "I didn't know what ... was going on at any time during that whole match. I was thoroughly confused."

That feeling, unfortunately for Roddick, transferred to the Stadium Court against Nadal. So it's back to Strategy 101 with Roddick and his coach, Jimmy Connors.

"You can say you want to go with this stuff, but with him playing the way he was, I got outplayed, start to finish," Roddick said. "That's the bottom line."

Nadal dismantled Roddick, not only with his vaunted speed and aggressive passing shots, but also by adeptly changing service speeds and spins, and frequently firing winners with his forehand down the line.

"I haven't seen that one a lot from him lately. So it did surprise me a little bit," Roddick said.

Said Nadal: "I think it's the best match in the season, no?"

Nadal never let Roddick get comfortable. The American had his serve broken in the opening game of the second set, and couldn't fully recover.

"From there, I felt like I was really playing catch-up," Roddick said. "I made it real tough on myself after that. I felt like he did a good job of putting the clamps down after that."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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