Rafael Nadal continued his march towards a first Australian Open title with a straight-sets victory against Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals tonight.
His 6-2 7-5 7-5 win sets up an all-Spanish semi-final for the first time in Melbourne in the open era after Davis Cup team-mate Fernando Verdasco also overcame a Frenchman - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - in his last-eight match.
It is the second year in succession Nadal has reached the semi-finals without dropping a set.
But it was a close-run thing under a closed roof in Rod Laver Arena with Simon having set point at 5-4 up in the second before Nadal held serve then broke the sixth seed before comfortably holding serve again to take it 7-5.
Simon, in his first grand slam quarter-final, had a tentative start, losing his serve in the first, fifth and seventh games of the opening set as he was forced into errors by the pressure Nadal built.
Looking to tighten his angles or push his shots close to the line, Simon often went wide, long or into the net. Nadal on the other hand hardly put a foot wrong as he took the first set in 33 minutes.
The second set was far tighter, despite Simon losing serve in the opening game again.
He pushed the world number one hard in the next game, getting back to deuce before another effort overshot the mark to give the Spaniard a 2-0 lead.
But the Frenchman responded strongly, holding his own serve to love than poaching one from his opponent with a crisp forehand volley to square it 2-2.
The rest of the set went with serve as each pounded shots from the baseline and Simon squandered a set point.
He was broken again in the 11th game and when Nadal served out the set it looked ominous for the Frenchman.
The top seed was quickly up a break in the third but this time Simon responded in kind - an overhead smash bringing him back to 3-3.
A beautiful lob which left Nadal stranded and an ace ensured Simon held serve and again Nadal had to dig himself out of trouble, relying on a loose forehand shot by his opponent to keep apace.
The pair traded service games until a pivotal moment in the 10th game when Simon double faulted for the fourth time in the match, then sent a backhand into the net.
Nadal needed no second invitation, smashing a cross-court winner to claim the break then held his serve to love to book his place in the last four.Reuse content