Rafael Nadal beat Leonardo Mayer in straight sets on Thursday to progress to the semi-finals of the Mexican Open, setting up a meeting with Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro.
Second seed Nadal won 6-1, 7-5 in 1 hour, 41 minutes as the former world No. 1 continued his comeback from a long-term knee injury and builds toward the French Open.
Third seed Almagro also had a straight-sets win, defeating Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4.
Top seed David Ferrer remained on track for a fourth straight Mexican Open title by breezing past Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-1, notching his 18th consecutive win in the tournament.
Ferrer’s semi-final opponent was Italy’s Fabio Fognini, who beat Santiago Giraldo 7-5, 6-4.
“So far I’ve played in three semi-finals and that’s fantastic news, and it’s even better because my three best games have been here,” Nadal said. “Now I feel like I have nothing to lose no matter what happens tomorrow. Either I will go on to play the final or I will go happy to play in another tournament knowing that the knee is responding better.”
Nadal has good reason to be confident of beating Almagro as he boasts an 8-0 record against his fellow Spaniard, yet the former No.1 said his long absence from the tour must be taken into account.
“I don’t feel as the favorite for tomorrow, it’s been seven months without competing and I will be facing a great clay player,” Nadal said. “I will do my best to play a great match to reach the final, it’s that clear.”
On Tuesday, Nadal said he may pull out of next week’s Indian Wells Masters in California to spare his fragile knees from the hard courts and save himself for Europe.
He did not say whether he would also compete in the Key Biscayne Masters, where he has reached the final three times and which follows Indian Wells.