World No. 1 Rafael Nadal finished a rain-delayed 6-3, 6-0 match over Nicolas Lapentti, then beat Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-3 to move into the semifinals at the Masters Monte Carlo.
No No. 1-ranked player has won the Monte Carlo title since Ivan Lendl in 1988.
“The first match I started badly, but I finished the match better than I start,” Nadal said. “The second match, maybe even had a lot of mistakes. But the feeling was better. [The] important thing [is that] I finished the day better than I started.”
On Saturday in the semis Nadal will face Andy Murray, who bested a determined Nikolay Davydenko 7-6(1), 6-4.
Murray let slip two set points at 6-5 and 15-40 on Davydenko’s serve, but won in a tiebreak over the Russian who is just returning from a lengthy foot injury.
Nadal says he will need to step it up in the Saturday semis.
“[I] have to play a little bit more inside [the baseline], make less mistakes, serve a little bit better,” Nadal said. “I think all aspects of the game I have to improve. But I hope tomorrow [will] be better.”
The other semifinal will be Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer’s conqueror, Swiss Stan Wawrinka.
The No. 3-seeded Djokovic defeated No. 7 Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. Wawrinka defeated German qualifier Andreas Beck 6-2, 6-4.
“I could have finished the job in two sets, but then he came back,” Djokovic said. “The courts were really wet. The balls were getting bald and really fast. It was tough to control.”
Wawrinka has lost four matches in a row against Djokovic. Then again, Wawrinka had never beaten Federer until the two met on clay for the first time this week.
“I’m very pleased to play against him again, this time on clay,” Wawrinka said. “I think it’s going to be a very physical match. I know he likes to be very aggressive.”
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