Nadal homes in on his seventh title by blasting past Almagro

World No 2 smashes clay-court specialist at venue where he has been beaten only once

Roland Garros

Nicolas Almagro did his best, winning more games than any of the king of clay's previous opponents here this year, but Rafael Nadal took another major stride towards a record seventh French Open title yesterday. The world No 2 has now not dropped a set in his first five matches and despite being below his best he was still too good for his fellow Spaniard. Nadal won 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 to earn a semi-final against David Ferrer.

Nadal and Almagro are both 26, both at their best on clay and both had reached the last eight without losing a set. However, that was where the similarities ended. Almagro, who had lost in his two previous Grand Slam quarter-finals, both of them here, is a flat-track bully who has won 12 titles – all of them on clay – at lesser events but has rarely looked capable of upsetting the biggest names on the biggest occasions. He has lost 24 of his 26 matches against top-five opponents and has never beaten Nadal in nine attempts.

Nevertheless, the No 12 seed went into the match on the back of eight successive victories – one fewer than his Davis Cup colleague – and with more clay-court wins under his belt this year (28) than any other player.

At least the first set was close. The first break point of the match, which Almagro saved with a smash, did not come until the 11th game. The tie-break, however, was all too predictable. Nadal won the first three points, went 4-0 up with a huge winning forehand after an exhausting 34-stroke rally and won the tie-break 7-4 after 62 minutes with a service winner.

In the second set Nadal made the first break of serve in the fourth game and survived the first break point against his own serve in the seventh. When Almagro served at 2-5 he was broken again as Nadal converted his first set point.

The third set was interrupted briefly by a rain stoppage, after which Almagro enjoyed one of his best spells of the match. Going for his shots, particularly on his forehand, the world No 13 forced two break points at 2-2, but Nadal held firm. Three games later, Almagro handed his opponent his final break with a double fault. Nadal went on to serve out for victory, which he completed with an ace after two hours and 46 minutes.

Victory in Sunday's final would establish Nadal as the most successful player ever at Roland Garros. The Spaniard is currently tied with Bjorn Borg on six French Open titles. He has lost only one match in his eight visits to these courts, having gone out in the fourth round to Sweden's Robin Soderling three years ago, when his knees were in such a state that he was forced to miss the subsequent grass-court season.

The world No 2 has lost only one match on clay since last year's French Open – to Fernando Verdasco on the controversial blue clay at last month's Madrid Masters – and has already won three titles this year on his favourite surface, in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

His first-round victory at Roland Garros this year – a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 procession past Simone Bolelli of Italy – was his 150th win in a Grand Slam tournament. At 26 years and seven days he is the youngest man in history to have reached the milestone, 326 days ahead of Roger Federer, who is the second player on the list.

Britain's Kyle Edmund, meanwhile, reached the quarter-finals of the boys' singles by beating Italy's Gianluigi Quinzi, the second seed, 7-6, 1-6, 6-4. Edmund, 17, who won seven points in succession in the tie-break, has now reached the quarter-finals at three successive Grand Slam junior tournaments. His fellow Briton, Liam Broady, was beaten 6-2, 6-3 by Noah Rubin of the United States.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea