Published June 06, 2012
PARIS – A rain shower stopped play at Roland Garros for a minute or two in the middle of Rafael Nadal's quarterfinal.
Nicolas Almagro? He couldn't do anything to slow Rafa at his favorite tournament.
Second-seeded Nadal defeated his fellow Spaniard 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday to move to the French Open semifinals, two wins away from a record seventh title on the red clay of Paris.
Nadal, who shares the Roland Garros record with Bjorn Borg, hasn't lost a set through his first five matches this year. Against the 12th-seeded Almagro, he faced four break points but saved them all. He improved to 50-1 lifetime at Roland Garros, with the only loss coming to Robin Soderling in 2009.
"I was just trying to wait for my moments," Nadal said. "He had some good moments and he was hitting the ball hard, but I had my chances, too."
Nadal's next match will be against sixth-seeded David Ferrer, who defeated No. 4 seed Andy Murray 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 to move to his first French Open semifinal. Ferrer's last semifinal appearance at a Grand Slam came at the 2011 Australian Open, where he defeated Nadal in the quarterfinals to get there.
Since that match, however, Nadal has defeated Ferrer four straight times, all on clay, with three of those wins in the final of tournaments.
"It will be tough against him because he's the best player on clay in history," Ferrer said.
The Ferrer-Murray match was delayed for about 30 minutes by a bigger rain shower that passed through a few minutes after Nadal left the court.
It means he'll have a few hours of extra rest before the semifinals Friday, though he hardly needs it.
Including the 2 hours, 46 minutes he took to dispatch Almagro, Nadal has spent a grand total of 10 hours, 37 minutes on court. Novak Djokovic, by comparison, spent a combined 8 hours, 27 minutes grinding out his past two matches — five-set wins over Andreas Seppi and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Djokovic saved four match points in his win Tuesday against the Frenchman Tsonga and Nadal spent about as much time answering questions about that match as his own, which produced none of the drama.
"A player like Novak probably creates more chances to save tough matches like yesterday, where he's in a trouble situation," Nadal said. "He's fighting, putting another ball inside the court and puts pressure all the time against Tsonga."
In the match Wednesday, Almagro pushed Nadal in the first set, taking him to a tiebreaker and cutting a 5-1 deficit to 5-4. But Nadal responded by closing out the set with a big forehand down the line that Almagro couldn't handle, then a 121 mph serve that Almagro couldn't return.
Four times over the next two sets, Almagro had chances to break. He made unforced errors on two of them, including a big forehand that landed wide — "In my opinion, it was not the right ball to hit," Nadal said. Almagro also left an overhead short for an easy putaway and Nadal hit an unreturnable serve on the other break point.
Nothing to be ashamed of, though. Nadal has lost serve only once during the tournament and has saved 16 of 17 break points.
"His serve was really good today," Almagro said. "At the important moments, he served better than (he did) the rest of the match. The key of the match is I had my chances and I didn't catch it."
In the women's quarterfinals before Nadal played, second-seeded Maria Sharapova defeated 23rd-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-2, 6-3 and the No. 4 seed, Petra Kvitova, beat 142nd-ranked qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Sharapova and Kvitova will meet Thursday in a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final, where Kvitova won her first Grand Slam tournament.