World No. 1 Rafael Nadal took another step toward a first Miami title by out-slugging big-hitting Canadian Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the Sony Open.
Nadal, a three-time runner-up on the Miami hardcourts, is to play seventh-seed Tomas Berdych for a place in tomorrow’s final after the Czech eased into the last four with 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) win over Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The other semi-final is to be played between world No. 2 Novak Djokovic and Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who has already beaten fourth seed David Ferrer and 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer.
Nadal’s resume includes 62 career titles, including two this year, but the Miami trophy has consistently eluded the 13-time Grand Slam winner.
Raonic’s booming serve, that included a couple in excess of 225kph, kept Nadal on his heels in the opening set, but it was the world No. 1’s own serve that let him down when he double faulted on break point at 5-4 down to gift the 12th seeded Canadian the set.
It marked the first time Nadal’s serve had been broken in Miami and the unhappy Spaniard struck back by breaking Raonic twice to surge to a 4-0 lead in the second on the way to leveling the match.
He then gained the upper hand in the third set with a decisive break at 4-3 then held serve to complete the victory.
Earlier, Berdych quietly worked his way into the last four without dropping a set.
The match was briefly halted by rain with the score tied 4-4 in the opening set, but when the players returned to an overcast center court, Berdych took control, holding serve and breaking the 22nd seed to grab a 1-0 lead.
Dolgopolov hit back with an early break in the second on way to a 5-3 lead, but Berdych broke the Ukrainian at 5-5 to help force a tiebreak, which he easily won to register his 450th career match win.