- ATP Tour
Nadal outlasts spirited Ferrer
Rafael Nadal had to come from a set down to defeat a spirited David Ferrer 4-6 7-6(3) 6-0 and move into the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals.
The 26-year-old showed glimpses of vulnerability against his Spanish compatriot, which will worry him ahead of his French Open title defence at Roland Garros later this month, but had the necessary class to grind out the victory.
Nadal dropped just two games when the pair last met in the final of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel Final in Acapulco in February, but it proved a different scenario in Madrid as Ferrer pushed his opponent to the limit.
Ferrer stepped up to hold his serve in the first game, despite early pressure from Nadal as both appeared to settle quickly in the hot conditions.
Nadal was handed a time violation after taking an average of 28 seconds between service points, and it clearly affected the Spaniard as he channelled too much frustration into a loose forehand to give Ferrer an early break.
While Nadal was not at his vintage best, his response came in tremendous fashion. With Ferrer seemingly in control of a rally, the world No. 5 clipped a remarkable return at full stretch with his back to the court to steal the point.
But the 31-year-old Ferrer was not about to be upstaged in front of the Manolo Santana crowd, which included Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, as he impressively worked the net to take the first set and leave Nadal with serious work to do.
The reigning Roland Garros champion started the second with an early break, but was immediately pegged back by a dogged Ferrer when squandering a chance to save at the net.
Fourth seed Ferrer continued to cover all areas of the court and was duly rewarded with his fourth break of Nadal, but the 2010 champion responded immediately with the break back to love.
Another trade of breaks levelled play up again, and a timely hold to love from Ferrer gave him first sight at victory, but Nadal saved his serve to force the tiebreak. And just past the two-hour mark, Nadal, with three set points, forced Ferrer into an error and take the match into a deciding set.
Nadal started the third in similar fashion, seeing a stunning lob drop just inside the baseline to stagger Ferrer and save his serve. An uplifted Nadal soon moved into a commanding position following a break on a fading Ferrer, completing the double break with another impressive forehand down the line.
The tiring Ferrer could not prevent being beaten with a bagel, as Nadal pushed wide and forced the error to win the match and advance - where in the semi-final he will face Pablo Andujar who got the better of Kei Nishikori 6-3 7-5