Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer will meet in an all-Spanish French Open semi-final after winning their way through from the last eight on Wednesday.
Defending champion and second seed Nadal ousted another Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-3, while sixth seed Ferrer outgunned fourth seed Andy Murray of Britain 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-2.
Today’s other semi-final has already been set, with top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia taking on third seed Roger Federer of Switzerland.
The win over Almagro was the 50th for Nadal at the spiritual home of clay-court tennis since he first competed in Paris as an 18-year-old in 2005.
His only defeat came in the fourth round in 2009, when he lost to Robin Soderling of Sweden in a fourth-round match.
This year, Nadal is bidding to become the first player to win seven French Open titles, moving him out of a tie with Swedish legend Bjorn Borg. A win on Sunday would also be his 11th Grand Slam title, level with Borg and Rod Laver.
In the end, Almagro went the way of so many others over the course of the last seven years, but he gave a solid account of himself, especially in a hotly-disputed first set.
“He had chances in the third. He had a few very good moments hitting the ball very hard, but my serve worked really well, and he had one mistake, one important mistake with the forehand,” Nadal said of Almagro, who he beat for the eighth time in eight matches.
Nadal’s drive into the final four has come at the cost of just 30 games and he will take confidence into the semi-final clash with close friend Ferrer, having beaten him 15 out of the 19 times they have played each other.
Ferrer is fully aware of the extent of the challenge that awaits him.
After his hard-earned win over Murray, he said: “It will be a tough match against Rafa, he’s the best in history on this surface, but I hope to have a good match. Tonight’s match was very hard, physically very difficult, but I am happy to be in the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the first time.”
Murray, bidding to reach a second successive French Open semi-final, comfortably matched his opponent in the grueling, big-hitting rallies, but he was undone by 59 unforced errors.
It meant his long-running quest to end 76 years of heartbreak for British tennis at the four major tournaments will now move on to the grass at Wimbledon.
“He had his chances and converted them. He’s solid and consistent, and if you don’t convert opportunities against him, the games become longer and the pressure builds on you,” said Murray, who had reached the semi-finals in the last five Grand Slams. “But it was a good tournament for me.”
Asked who he thought would win the tournament, Murray replied: “I think the four best claycourt players in the world are left in and whoever plays best will win. Probably have to favor Rafa [Nadal] slightly, but everyone is playing very, very well.”