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Nadal powers on at Indian Wells

Defending champion Rafael Nadal booked his place in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells with a straight-sets win over Tomas Berdych.

World number three Nadal has impressed on his return to action following a spell on the sidelines with a knee problem, and victory over the 19th-seeded Czech was another good test of his fitness with Berdych a formidable opponent.

Nadal faced seven break points in the match, saving all but two of them, as he registered a 6-4 7-6 (7/4) in two hours and 11 minutes to tee up a last-four clash with big-hitting Ivan Ljubicic.

"It was a very good match," said Nadal. "I played really well, especially the first set. The first eight, nine games of the match was [played at an] unbelievable level.

"Later the wind came a little bit and it was more difficult to play. But anyway, we were still playing, keep playing at high level, and this is very important.

"[It is] very good news for me to be in semi-finals."

Victory in the semis against Ljubicic on Saturday would secure the Spaniard a third appearance in the final at Indian Wells in four years, and Nadal added: "I like be here and I like to have a match to fight to try to be in this final.

"Any opponent is going to be really difficult.

"He's playing well with from the baseline. It's going to be difficult match. I think I am playing well too, no?

"I'm gonna try my best to try to be in this final."

Croatian Ljubicic faced only one break point in three sets as he completed a trademark big-serving win over Juan Monaco to reach the semis.

The Argentinian, seeded 21st, made a bright start and, despite winning just eight points on the Ljubicic serve in the first set, managed to string enough together to earn a break of serve and take the set 6-4.

But Ljubicic came back in style, winning 16 of 19 service points in the second set to prevail 6-2 and level the match.

And the 20th seed was just as dominant in the third, breaking twice more to complete a 4-6 6-2 6-1 triumph in one hour and 47 minutes.

Ljubicic has enjoyed himself at Indian Wells down the years having reached the quarter-finals three times and fourth round twice in his last five appearances.

"The conditions suit my game perfectly," he said.

"It's nice and dry. The ball goes through the air pretty quickly. The court is slow enough so I can return well, as well. It's just perfect.

"It's definitely the favourite place for me to play matches, of course."