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semi final

rafael_nadal1Defending champion Rafael Nadal made a return to the Roland Garros final for the 8th time in 9 appearances after outlasting world no.1 Novak Djokovic in a nail biting and topsy turvy 5 set semi-final  that lasted an epic 4 hours and 37 minutes, fighting back from a break down in the final set to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7.

The 35th meeting between the two great rivals got off to a great start for Novak Djokovic. He found his rhythm almost immediately while the ‘King Of Clay’ looked a bit unsure of his movement. Still, Nadal was able to keep up with the top seed to take the match to 3-3 on serve. After that, things changed. The Spaniard found his game and broke Djokovic’s serve for a 4-3 lead which he extended further to take the first set 6-4 after 51 tense minutes.

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With players like Tommy Haas and Tommy Robredo amongst others playing marathon 5 setters to progress deep into the men’s draw at this year’s French Open, the story at the 2013 Roland Garros has been about the’ 30+ generation’ and the grueling nature of the Parisian red clay.

Three out of four players in today’s quarterfinal were into their fourth decade and it looked like tennis fans were in for another engaging and long lasting day of tennis.

However, that was not the case as both 4th seed David Ferrer and 6th seed and last remaining Frenchman in the men’s draw Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came through in straight sets to move into the last 4. Ferrer defeated Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 while Tsonga joined him a little later talking out the 2nd seed, Roger Federer, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

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The era of Spanish dominance is well and truly in the past after Bayern Munich brushed aside Barcelona 3-0 in the 2nd leg of their semi-final to clinch the tie 7-0 on aggregate and setup the first all-German Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on May 25th at Wembley. Barcelona were always up against it after their 1st leg mauling and with Lionel Messi being restricted to the bench through injury their chances reduced further.

Any hopes of Bayern being slack were washed away three minutes into the 2nd half when Arjen Robben got the crucial away goal after cutting in from the right. Gerard Pique’s own goal on 72 minutes made it 2-0 to the Germans, who added a 3rd four minutes later through Thomas Muller. The stage is set for the Germans to shine on the continent’s biggest stage and on a personal note, Bayern have a glorious chance to make up for the disappointments of 2010 and 2012.

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Barcelona’s aura of invincibility has gradually been torn down over the last 12 months and at the magnificent Allianz Arena last night Bayern Munich shattered any remaining crumbs. The Champions League semi-final 1st leg between the two European powerhouses was one-sided as they get as a ruthless Bayern dispatched Barca 4-0 to all but seal a place in the final at Wembley. Thomas Muller was the star of the show as he grabbed a brace while Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez added the other strikes to ground the Spanish Champions-elect, who suffered their worst defeat in the competition in 16 years. The 2nd leg in a week's time will be a dead rubber in all likelihood as no team has ever recovered from a four-goal 1st leg deficit in the competition before.

Jupp Heynckes had his best eleven out on the pitch, leading the attack with Mario Gomez who received support from Muller, Robben and Frank Ribery. The formidable midfield pair of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez were more than a match for Barca’s pass-masters while Dante was a giant in the back-four alongside Philip Lahm, Jerome Boateng and David Alaba.

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Manchester City’s week only got better on Sunday as they followed up that victory over Man United in the league by navigating past Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero scored for City either side of the break and deservedly so as they completely dominated proceedings against a muted Chelsea. The FA Cup specialists slowly creeped into the game in the 2nd half and halved the deficit courtesy of a stunning Demba Ba goal. But there wasn’t to be a dramatic comeback for the Blues as City held on to book their place in the final against Wigan Athletic.Rafa

Benitez sent out a strong message to his players by leaving Frank Lampard, John Terry and Fernando Torres on the bench for the semi-final, choosing to lead the line with Demba Ba instead while Ramires and Jon Obi Mikel formed the midfield partnership. The attacking triumvirate of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata were again fielded together behind Ba while Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta stuck to the wings. At the back, David Luiz and Bransilav Ivanovic started in central defence ahead of Petr Cech in goal.

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A night after the Champions League semi-final spots were decided, the Europa League strutted out with its posse of last-eight teams with a place in the last-four the incentive for the quarter finalists. The English had dominated proceedings thus far in the knockout stage but their reign was shattered last night, with Chelsea the last man standing from the British challenge. The Blues lost 3-2 at Rubin Kazan but went through 5-4 on aggregate.

Tottenham sadly weren’t as lucky as they were knocked out on penalties by Basle after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate, with Emmanuel Adebayor the guilty party at the end. Newcastle couldn’t conjure up a classic comeback against Benfica as they were knocked out after being defeated 4-2 on aggregate while Fenerbahce also booked a spot in the last-four after beating Lazio 3-1 on aggregate.

Rubin Kazan 3-2 Chelsea (Agg 4-5)

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German veteran Tommy Haas is one of the lesser known members of 17 time Major winner Roger Federer’s ‘lost generation’ of tennis players that includes the likes of Andy Roddick, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt. Players that could have won many more titles and majors had it not been for Federer’s great rise to the top and 5 year reign as world no.1. Roddick, Safin and Hewitt have a few slams to their credit and also a world no.1 ranking. Haas, on the other hand, who was up there with the Swiss Maestro as far as talent was concerned was never able to live up to the promise he once showed, even though he did manage to reach the world no.2 position and a couple of semi-final appearances at the Grand Slams.

2012 was the year where he made a comeback to the tour with a victory in Halle (against Federer) and jumped 184 places to get back into the top 20. With his defeat of world no.1 Novak Djokovic and 11th seed Giles Simon in quick succession in straight sets, the 34 year old German, became the feel good story of the Miami Masters. Could he, after all these years, manage to pull off something special and win the Sony Open?

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