Spain’s Rafael Nadal moved to within one victory of an eighth Barcelona Open title in nine years when he thrashed Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-0 on Saturday to set up a final against fourth-seeded compatriot Nicolas Almagro.
Chasing a fourth title of the year after returning from a seven-month injury layoff in February, Nadal recovered from a slow start on the clay at the Real Club de Tenis when he lost his serve in the second game to fall 2-0 behind.
The French Open champion broke straight back and again for a 4-3 lead, before closing out the first set and he turned the screw in the second to secure a comfortable third win in three matches against the big-serving world No. 13.
Almagro, who reached the semi-finals in 2006 and 2011, improved his head-to-head record against eighth-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber to five wins and three defeats with a similarly clinical performance.
The 27-year-old, bidding for a 13th career title, did not face a single break point and converted four of his seven opportunities to seal a 6-2, 6-1 victory in just over 50 minutes.
It was a relief for organizers to get both semi-finals out of the way after the rain that has fallen throughout the week in the Catalan capital delayed the start of play.
Nadal is looking to bounce back from his defeat by Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the previous weekend’s Monte Carlo Masters final.
The 26-year-old Mallorcan, who like Raonic had to play twice on Friday because of the rain delays, extended his winning streak in Barcelona to 38 matches, his only defeat coming against compatriot Alex Corretja, now Spain’s Davis Cup captain, in the second round in 2003.
BRD TIRIAC NASTASE
Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic ousted three-time champion Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-3 on Saturday to reach his first career final at the BRD Tiriac Nastase.
Rosol will face fellow unseeded player Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, who beat 2011 winner Florian Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Rosol stunned Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon last year, but has struggled to live up to expectations since and it was his first semi-final on the ATP Tour.
The Czech saved all eight break points he faced to end Simon’s 16-match winning streak at the clay-court event.