Rafa Nadal recovered from accidentally striking himself in the face with his racket to see off his Spanish compatriot David Ferrer 4-6, 7-6, 6-0 in the Madrid Masters quarter-finals.
The world No 4 Ferrer, ranked one place above Nadal following the Majorcan’s seven-month lay-off with a knee injury, showed why he is considered one of the most tenacious competitors on the circuit, and why he is known as “The Wall”, to take the first set of the last-eight match at the clay Masters event.
Nadal clung on to edge the second-set tiebreak 7-3 and then moved up a gear in the decider to set up a semi-final today against the Spanish wildcard Pablo Andujar.
Nadal had a scare when leading 4-0 in the third set when his racket bounced up off the court as he was stretching down to play a shot and struck him above the eye. After a brief interruption he was able to continue and closed out the victory on his first match point when he broke Ferrer for a seventh time.
“It was a very tight match,” Nadal said afterwards. “I think maybe David deserved more than me to be in the semi-finals but that’s sport for you. In the third set David dropped his intensity a bit and I didn’t have to do all that much. I was playing aggressively on my forehand and I am very pleased with how that is going.”
Nadal has managed to avoid the fate of the world No 1 Novak Djokovic, who was upset by the unseeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the second round on Tuesday. Second seed and defending champion Roger Federer became another high-profile casualty on Thursday when he lost his third-round match to Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Former world No 1 Nadal has won four titles since his return from injury in February and will be chasing an eighth Roland Garros crown in Paris when the French Open starts later this month.
In the women’s tournament, top seed and world No 1 Serena Williams was pushed all the way by unseeded Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues before triumphing 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 to make the semi-finals.
The defending champion at the clay event fought back from 4-2 down in the third set to see off the local favourite, who was cheered on by a partisan crowd at the Magic Box Arena.
“It was definitely a battle,” Williams said. “I obviously didn’t do much in the second set, and I think I gave her a lot of confidence to play better. I thought she played really well in the third.”
Williams made it 26 wins and only one defeat since the start of last year’s clay-court season, but was up against an experienced player on the surface.
The 30-year-old Spaniard has the highest number of clay-court title wins with 10 among players currently on the circuit and stunned the American in taking the second set to love. “I wasn’t really there,” Williams said. “I wasn’t really in it. My feet weren’t moving. I don’t know what happened.
“To turn it around I got up earlier on the changeover and started doing high knees and just stretching and doing anything to try to get my intensity back up where it needed to be.
“I definitely want to cut back on my unforced errors. I had a lot today. Also, I went for a lot more today than I have been doing in my past few matches.
“So I think I’m going to go back to the way I have been playing, and being more calm, and not making as many errors as I did today.”
Williams will meet either seventh-seeded Italian Sara Errani in the last four, after the Italian swept aside unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-3.