Nadal wary of Melzer threat in bid to reach final
Rafael Nadal has said he will have to be at the top of his game to defeat Jurgen Melzer today and claim a place in the French Open final.
For the first time in his career, the Spaniard will not need to beat arch-rival Roger Federer to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires after the world No 1's shock quarter-final exit at the hands of Robin Soderling.
Second seed Nadal accepts the absence of Federer makes his task easier, but he also stressed that anyone who reaches the last four of a Grand Slam will not be a push over.
Nadal, who will usurp Federer as world No 1 if he wins Sunday's final, said: "He (Melzer) is playing unbelievably. He played against David Ferrer - I saw him in the match.
"A big comeback against Djokovic, playing a high level. I saw him at the end of the match playing very aggressively, serving well.
"If he's in the semi-finals, it is because he's the best of his draw."
Nadal's title odds shortened when third seed Novak Djokovic threw away a two-set lead to lose a marathon match against Melzer.
Nadal has won both his previous meetings with Melzer in straight sets.
One man Melzer could turn to for advice on how to topple the king of clay is Soderling, who will line up against Tomas Berdych hoping to secure his place in a second successive final.
Soderling has won his last two matches against Nadal, the first famously at Roland Garros last year.
However, he did suffer a comprehensive defeat in his last meeting with Berdych, losing 6-2, 6-2 at this year's Miami Masters.
Pointing out he won their previous match just as emphatically, the fifth seed said: "I know every match is a new match, and he's played great this year.
"He's a dangerous player when he's playing good."
With this being his first grand slam semi-final since finishing runner-up last year, Soderling would appear to favour clay as a surface, even though it seems at odds with his natural game.
He said: "I think I kind of like the slower surface a little bit more than the really fast ones.
"When I serve like this and when I'm feeling like I'm hitting the ball well like this, I think maybe clay is my best surface."
Berdych, who has never before gone this far in a major, also played down the significance of his April victory over Soderling.
"The score looks quite easy," he said. "That's just how it looks on paper.
"I won that match, and so it could be kind of a small advantage.
"But here we're going to play best of five sets, semi-final of a grand slam.
"That's a different position for me because he already reached it last year.
"I will just stay with my game as much as I can and try to profit from my strokes."