Rafael Nadal breezed into the semi-finals of the Rome Masters with a 6-1 6-3 win over Marin Cilic today which ensures he will hold onto his world number one ranking going into the French Open later this month.
The top seed, looking to bounce back from his defeat to Novak Djokovic in the Madrid final last week, broke the Croatian's serve twice to seize the upper hand in the first set.
The world number 23 gave Nadal a slightly tougher ride in the second set but breaks of serve in the seventh and ninth games were enough to wrap up victory in one hour and 25 minutes and set up a last-four encounter with either 16th seed Richard Gasquet or seventh seed Tomas Berdych.
Nadal was swift out of the blocks and a fabulous driven forehand gave Cilic no chance as he took the first break point opportunity which presented itself, and a wild forehand from the Croatian left him trailing 4-0 in the first set.
Cilic finally got off the mark by holding in the sixth game courtesy of a cool drop shot, but a backhand into the net allowed Nadal to hold and take the set 6-1 in 39 minutes.
Nadal missed two chances to break in the fifth game of the second set, stretching to hit a forehand into the net and then miscuing a forehand after setting up the break chance with a stunning lob on the previous point.
The Majorcan did get the break in the seventh game having raced into a 40-0 lead, clinching the game at the first opportunity as a tired-looking Cilic forehand drifted long.
He broke Cilic again in game nine to seal the match as the Croatian fired a forehand wide.
Nadal is aiming to reach the final of a sixth consecutive tournament, having won two by beating David Ferrer and losing the other three to Djokovic.
Andy Murray became the first Briton to make the semi-finals in Rome in the open era after battling back to beat Germany's Florian Mayer today.
Murray was brushed aside in the opening set but gradually found a foothold before upping his game to secure a 1-6 6-1 6-1 triumph and set up a potential rematch with Djokovic.
Djokovic beat Murray comprehensively in the Australian Open final at the start of the year - a defeat which prompted a woeful run of form for the Scot.
By contrast, Djokovic is yet to lose a match this year and the pair will clash once more if the Serb can see off Robin Soderling and improve his record for 2011 to 35-0 tonight.
Murray will need to reproduce the tennis he displayed in sets two and three if he is to have any chance but the way he turned the contest around should offer encouragement.
In the WTA event, fourth seed Na Li of China wrapped up a comfortable 6-3 6-1 victory over Hungary's Greta Arn in one hour and eight minutes on Pietrangeli court.
Li will now face the winner of this afternoon's quarter-final between sixth seed Samantha Stosur and third seed Francesca Schiavone.
The other two women's quarter-finals see top seed Caroline Wozniacki take on Jelena Jankovic, seeded fifth, with the winner taking on the victor of the meeting between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.Reuse content