Rafael Nadal had to struggle through another three-set challenge before beating Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 on Friday to reach the Rotterdam Open semi-finals.
The world No. 1 has been taken to three sets in all three rounds this week, but the Spaniard said his game was improving on this fast, indoor surface.
“This was definitely my best match of the week,” Nadal said after 2 hours, 40 minutes in a contest where Tsonga fired six aces. “Tsonga just came from winning a tournament and was extremely tough.”
The Australian Open champion had chances in the second set to wrap up a quick victory, but couldn’t convert. A 2-0 lead in the tie-breaker went begging as Johannesburg champion Tsonga reeled off six consecutive points on his way to leveling at a set each.
Nadal finally got on top with a break for a 2-0 lead in the third set, but promptly handed it back. A double-fault from Tsonga set up a match point, that Nadal converted. Nadal will face fifth seed Gael Monfils, who defeated French compatriot Julien Benneteau 7-6 (7/4), 6-1, for a place in the final.
Andy Murray produced a 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 3-0 victory over French opponent Marc Gicquel, who pulled out with a hamstring injury. Murray will next meet Croatia’s Mario Ancic, who put out 2007 champion Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-2.
■ SAP OPEN
AFP, SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
Top-seeded Andy Roddick cruised into the semi-finals of the SAP Open ATP hard court tournament on Friday as second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro was bundled out by Mardy Fish.
Roddick, the defending champion and a three-time winner, overcame German veteran Tommy Haas 7-5, 6-4 in 1 hour, 37 minutes.
The American, who pounded eight aces and won 79 percent of his first-serve points, didn’t face a break point in the match.
Roddick ended a run of three defeats to Haas as he advanced to a semi-final clash with fourth-seeded Czech Radek Stepanek, who rallied to beat qualifier Todd Widom of the US 5-7, 6-0, 6-0.
Earlier, fifth-seeded Fish upset Argentina’s del Potro 6-3, 6-4.
Fish hammered 19 aces and managed two breaks in a convincing victory in 1 hour, 28 minutes.
He next faces third-seeded James Blake of the US, who was also impressive in booking his place in the final four.
Blake outlasted sixth-seeded compatriot Sam Querrey in a marathon first-set tiebreaker and went on to a 7-6 (11/9), 6-3 victory.
■ OPEN GDF SUEZ
Amelie Mauresmo restored a measure of French pride with a crushing quarter-final victory over Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday, after three of her compatriots had earlier been eliminated from the tournament.
No. 1 seed Serena Williams saw off qualifier Emilie Loit 6-4, 6-1. Second seed Jelena Jankovic, meanwhile, fought back from a set down to overcome fifth seed Alize Cornet 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a keenly contested match.
Wild card Nathalie Dechy had booked her place in the last eight with a three-set victory over sixth seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland late on Thursday and the effort of her exertions showed as she was overpowered by Olympic champion Elena Dementieva 6-3, 6-2 in just over an hour.
It was left to Mauresmo to save face for the French supporters and she took a little under 70 minutes to dispose of world No. 10 Radwanska, saving six break points over the course of the match and serving and returning with imperious authority.