Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray both had to work double shifts on Friday before setting up a mouth-watering Monte Carlo Masters semi-final clash.
Top seed and world No. 1 Nadal dispatched Nicolas Lapentti, in a match held over because of Thursday’s torrential downpours, and then saw off Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic.
Murray, the fourth seed, defeated Italian Fabio Fognini, having held a one-set lead overnight, and then came back in the evening to end the challenge of Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 (7/1), 6-4.
“It was a long day,” the Scot said. “I’m rather looking forward to getting to my bed. It was a long first set [77 minutes], but I played a good tiebreaker and I came back from 4-1 down in the second.”
Four-time champion Nadal, bidding for a fifth consecutive trophy at the Country Club, finished off Ecuador’s Lapentti 6-3, 6-0. Late in the afternoon, he drove home a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Ljubicic.
“It was a tough day but [I got] two good wins without losing a set,” the winner of the last four French Opens said. “That is good news, the best news is I’m in the semi-finals. I’m very happy for that. I played less than three hours, that’s always important. The first match was not long and I was totally 100 percent in the second.”
Murray has never gone this far on clay and has never won three matches in a row on the surface.
In the other semi-final, world No. 3 Novak Djokovic will line up against Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, who put out Roger Federer in the third round.
Djokovic, under pressure from Murray in the world rankings, advanced over Spanish seventh seed Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
“The courts were really wet, even today you could feel it,” the Serbian said. “The balls were getting bald and really fast. It was tough to control, but overall I played really well. Today was a really good test, a really good match for me. I hung in there and just waited for my chances.”
Wawrinka, the No. 13 seed, beat German qualifier Andreas Beck 6-2, 6-4 and will be aiming for revenge against Djokovic after losing to the Serb three times last year.
Their last meeting came in a final in Rome 11 months ago, Wawrinka’s finest week on court.
“When I came to that final, I already thought my tournament was successful and I didn’t believe in my ability to beat him,” Wawrinka said. “This is one year later and everything is different.”
AP, BARCELONA, SPAIN
Francesca Schiavone of Italy defeated Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5 on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open.
Roberta Vinci of Italy also advanced after beating Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus 6-3, 6-3 before rain suspended play for the day.
Sixth-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia led 6-1, 1-2 against Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain when play on the clay court was called off.
■FAMILY CIRCLE CUP
REUTERS, CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Top seed Elena Dementieva reached the semi-finals of the Family Circle Cup on Friday when Dominika Cibulkova retired in the second set because of a left thigh strain.
The Russian, who had lost only four games in her two previous matches, was leading 6-4, 1-0 in the quarter-final when the seventh-seeded Slovakian retired.
Olympic champion Dementieva will next meet Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, who beat France’s Virginie Razzano 6-2, 6-0.
It will be the fourth meeting between the two players and Dementieva has a 2-1 advantage in the match-up.