Tennis: Rafael Nadal wins in straight sets against fellow Spaniard to reach French Open semi-finals
RAFAEL Nadal powered past fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro to reach the semi-finals and continue his bid for a seventh French Open title.
Nadal won in straight sets and extended his career record to 8-0 against the 12th seed, but he was made to work a little harder than those figures suggest.
The first set went to a tie-break but the second was one-sided, and a resurgent effort from Almagro in the third set came too late to prevent a 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-3 defeat.
Nadal was not at his best in the opening set, but after an opening love game for Almagro he tended to hold serve more comfortably.
It was game 11 before the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier saw the first break point, Almagro surviving with a decisive overhead.
That took the set to a tie-break, Nadal taking the first four points and wrapping it up when Almagro sent a service return long.
The left-hander broke serve for the first time to take a 3-1 lead in the second set.
Nadal faced break point for the first time in the seventh game of the set, after an hour and 36 minutes' play, but produced a dominant point, some powerful groundstrokes forcing Almagro from one corner to another before a powerful overhead killed it off.
He duly took the game for a 5-2 lead and though Almagro produced some big shots to prolong the next game to three deuces, Nadal took his first set point to move within one set of victory.
He added one more game before rain forced a very brief delay, with Almagro 40-30 up on his own serve. Two deuces followed the almost instant restart but the underdog held to level the set at 1-1.
After being taken to deuce in the next game, Nadal responded with a trademark barrage of deep groundstrokes and then an ace to hold.
Almagro missed a cross-court backhand as the first of two break points slipped away at 2-2 and Nadal closed out the game.
The right-handed player was producing some huge shots from his repertoire, particularly when allowed to attack a high ball on the forehand side, and held to go 3-3.
But Nadal made the crucial break to go 5-3 up, having been gifted his second break point by Almagro's first double-fault of the match, and served out to 15, winning the match with an ace.