Rio de Janeiro - Pablo Cuevas and Guido Pella will face off in the
final of the Rio Open after beating highly favoured opponents in the semi-finals
to get there.
Cuevas upset Rafael Nadal — who used to be unbeatable on clay —
6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-4 on Saturday. It was the Uruguayan's first victory over
Nadal in three attempts, and he finished off the match with an ace.
Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam winner, was also beaten in the semi-finals
in Buenos Aires a week ago, also on his favourite clay surface.
"I'm really happy because Rafa is a great player,"
Cuevas said. "I came out here thinking I could win, and I knew I had to
stay relaxed, which I was able to do for almost the entire match."
Pella won over rising Austrian star Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4.
Thiem won a tournament in Buenos Aires a week ago, beating Nadal
in the semi-finals, and had won eight straight matches before the loss.
Pella and Thiem played in heavy wind during the first set. Then
the match was delayed for an hour in the second set by a downpour. None of it
fazed the Argentine.
"The first set was terrible to play, but I was raised in a
place where the wind was as bad or worse," said Pella, who grew up in the
port city of Bahia Blanca in Buenos Aires province. "So I was used to
playing in conditions like this."
Pella said he just tried to hit for centre of the court, and aimed
sparingly for the edges.
Thiem, the youngest player in the ATP's top 20, played singles and
doubles on Friday. The doubles match finished about 1:30 - and it showed.
"Of course it was strange in the beginning, but he had the
same conditions and just handled it better than me," Thiem said.
Thiem overpowered Spain's David Ferrer in the quarterfinals 6-3,
6-2, but he was a shadow of himself against Pella.
"Everything I had was a couple percent less than I had the
last days and the last matches," he said. "On this level when you
don't have these last couple percent, you just go down immediately."