Confident Nadal sails past Blake to reach last four

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The Independent Online

The world No 2 Rafael Nadal powered to a 3-6 6-3 6-1 victory over James Blake on Wednesday night to reach the semi-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open in the United States.

Nadal defeated his American rival for the first time at the Pacific Life Open quarter-finals two weeks ago and replicated the feat on Wednesday.

"Right now I am feeling like I am playing at my best level, so that's important, to come to the clay season with more confidence," Nadal said.

"He started [out] playing so aggressive. I didn't have many chances in the beginning. I couldn't touch the ball. I couldn't get rhythm in the beginning – nothing."

Blake made far too many mistakes during the one hour, 55 minute contest, producing 31 unforced errors compared with just 13 for second-seed Nadal.

The American also offered Nadal 19 opportunities to break his serve, the triple French Open champion successfully doing so four times in total.

Nadal turned the match in his favour when he broke the ninth-seeded Blake with a sizzling backhand passing shot to go 5-3 up in the second set.

He greeted the break with his trademark fist pump and from then on Blake's challenge faded.

"This one was a little more disappointing," Blake said. "Last week I feel like I played my game. Just didn't play it well enough last week. This week I felt like I played my game for a while, and then I got a little indecisive."

Nadal will play 10th seed Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals after the Czech's 6-4 6-4 victory over Russia's Igor Andreev.

"There is no time for celebrating," said Berdych. "I just need to recover for the next match and be ready for Rafa."

On the women's side Jelena Jankovic reached the semi-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open after world No 11 Elena Dementieva retired with a back injury on Wednesday. Jankovic was suffering badly from a cold, but did not have to stay on court too long as Dementieva quit midway through the second set.

Jankovic will play world No 20 Vera Zvonareva after the Russian earned a 7-5 6-4 win over Dinara Safina.