No. 5 seed Rafael Nadal and his nemesis Fabio Fognini set up an unlikely semifinal on Wednesday at the Miami Open.
Nadal overpowered No. 13-seeded American Jack Sock 6-2, 6-3 while Fognini upset No. 2-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2.
After dominating the first set, Nadal went down a break 2-0 in the second with Sock having four chances for a second break. But Nadal turned up the heat winning six of the last seven games of the match.
“I think I was under control during the whole first set. In the second set, it was so important to save that game at 0-2, 15/40, and then get the break back in the next game,” said Nadal. “It was two positive things in two straight games that probably created a lot of damage to him.”
Nadal leads the career head-to-head with Fognini 7-3, but the Italian underdog’s game has always given the Spaniard trouble, and saw Nadal go down at the 2015 US Open on the big stage.
Fognini advanced to his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semifinal, winning his first match in three attempts against Nishikori who was ailing with injury.
“I’m feeling really good on court and other times, so this is the best thing that I can have this week,” Fognini said. “I’m happy about my performance. Of course, the result is positive. It’s like a dream maybe. I’m just trying to be focused on my game and do my best.”
The 29-year-old Fognini became the first Italian to reach the Miami semifinals in tournament history. He is the first unseeded player to reach the Miami semifinals in 10 years.
“I mean, Rafa, everybody knows Rafa,” Fognini said about the semifinal. “We will see.”
Added Nadal on the matchup, “I know him very well and he knows me very well. We played a few times and he’s beaten me a couple of times, too. It’s a tough match… He’s playing well, so it will be a good challenge. I need to play my best, keep playing aggressively like I did today and hope to have my chances.”
Matches on court Thursday in the quarterfinals will be (4) Roger Federer vs. (10) Tomas Berdych, and (16) Alexander Zverev vs. (12) Nick Kyrgios.
Federer leads the Czech 17-6 winning their last six (plus 14 straight sets). Federer is 16-1 on the season and he’s trying to sweep Indian Wells and Miami for a third time.
“I wish it’s going to be like the Australian Open, but I know it won’t be like that,” Federer said of his win over the Czech in Australia. “Just not reality that you can come in and just beat top 10 guys basically at will.
“I think it’s going to be a tough match. He’s beaten me at the, I don’t know, Olympics, US Open, Wimbledon, in big moments, so I know he can do it.”
Berdych did upset Federer in Miami in 2010.
Kyrgios just beat Zverev at Indian Wells and will look to return to the Miami semifinals. Zverev is playing in his first Masters quarterfinal.
MIAMI THURSDAY SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
WTA –  C. Wozniacki (DEN) vs  K. Pliskova (CZE)
Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP –  R. Federer (SUI) vs  T. Berdych (CZE)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP –  A. Zverev (GER) vs  N. Kyrgios (AUS)
Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA –  V. Williams (USA) vs  J. Konta (GBR)
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