Spain’s Rafa Nadal will face the US’ Andy Roddick in the semi-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open after the pair enjoyed convincing victories on Wednesday.
Roddick cruised with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Spain’s Nicolas Almagro, while Nadal was in blistering form in front of a packed crowd as he crushed France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-2.
The big-serving Tsonga matched Nadal in the opening exchanges, but never recovered after the Spaniard broke his serve in the seventh game of the opening set.
From then on Nadal, wearing a bright yellow shirt, was in outstanding form, displaying his full range of strokes as he dealt with everything that Tsonga threw at him saving all eight break points in the match.
Nadal, always a favorite among the heavily Hispanic crowd in Miami, survived a crucial break point when he was 3-1 up in the second set, but facing Tsonga’s renewed determination and it was free cruising from that point.
“I played well, his service is always tough but I think I also served really well today,” said Nadal, who now faces another big server in Roddick. “I have to be very focused on myself and try to play aggressively on the return. He is a big competitor and a very good player.”
Sixth seed Roddick, who won this event in 2004, never looked back after breaking at the first opportunity in the opening set.
In the second Roddick broke in the fifth thanks to two great forehand shots down the line and a delicate half-volley.
However, the American never really had to take any risks as he kept it tight and looked to take advantage of whatever loose returns came his way.
“I felt like I played pretty clean today,” Roddick said. “He’s a guy who takes lots of risk himself, so you can keep it low because he’s the one kind of trying to hit the lines and being the aggressor. I played within the margins today, and hit it well.”
Yesterday’s quarter-finals was to see Czech Tomas Berdych, who eliminated top seed Roger Federer in the previous round, meet Spain’s Fernando Verdasco while Russian Mikhail Youzhny was to play Sweden’s Robin Soderling.
■ WOMEN’S BELGIAN DUO
Former world No. 1s Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters set up a Belgian blockbuster in the semi-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open on Wednesday.
Henin, playing her fourth tournament since returning from retirement, downed world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4.
Clijsters, in her first full season since coming out of retirement last year, beat ninth-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur 6-3, 7-5.
“It has always been special, and it will always be special,” Henin said of her long rivalry with Clijsters. “Because Kim and I grew up together. We arrived on the tour almost at the same time, we played good at the same time, we retired at the same time and we came back at the same time.”
Clijsters, who married and had a baby in her absence from the women’s tour, returned with a bang by winning the US Open last September.
Clijsters triumphed in January when the two met in the final of the Brisbane International — Henin’s first tournament back.
“That was one of the funnest, most exciting matches I think that I’ve played in my career,” said Clijsters, who saved two match points in that contest. “Hopefully we can both play the same kind of match level and intensity.”
Henin, currently ranked 33rd in the world and playing on wild card invitation, has already beaten four seeded players in a row. She’s 16-3 since ending a 20-month retirement in January, and she’ll move back into the top 30 in next week’s rankings.
After her slow start, Henin was dominant on serve in the final set and closed out the 2 hours, 45 minutes match with a love game.
“I didn’t play for two years, so it’s good to be on the court a little bit longer,” she said.
Henin, who had 31 unforced errors in the opening set, said Wozniacki’s variety kept her from finding a groove early.
“She’s really smart,” Henin said. “She never hits two balls in a row with the same rhythm. She pushed me to play and work a lot.”
Three-time champion Venus Williams was to play 13th seed Marion Bartoli in the other women’s semi-final yesterday.
Henin, winner of seven Grand Slam titles, has never won in Miami. Her best finish was in 2007, when she lost to Serena Williams in the final.
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