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Nadal and Ferrer on course for Rio final

ESPN staff
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Rafael Nadal refused to talk about his back following his Rio Open quarter-final win over Joao Sousa © Getty Images
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Top-seeded Rafael Nadal reached the semi-finals of the Rio Open, showing no problems with a sore back in defeating Joao Sousa 6-1 6-0.

No. 1 ranked Nadal, in his first tournament since losing the Australian Open final, played his best match in Brazil and will face fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the semi-finals. Andjuar ripped through Tommy Robredo of Spain 6-1 6-1.

In the other semi-final, second-seeded David Ferrer will meet unseeded Alexandr Dolgopolov. Ferrer defeated Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 4-6 6-3 6-3 and Dolgopolov advanced against third-seeded Fabio Fognini 6-1 6-1.

Ferrer has won 21 ATP singles title and will be the favourite to reach the final on Sunday against Nadal, who has 61 titles including 13 Grand Slams.

"I think I have improved in everything," Nadal said. "I think I played a complete match. I had my best game of the tournament, and not just that but I played at a very high level. Really, I did things I wasn't able to do a few days ago. I moved better. I was more intense, more aggressive."

Asked about the back, Nadal backed off.

"We're not going to talk every day about the back," he said. "I'm in the semi-finals."

Nadal tweaked his back warming up for the final in Melbourne, eventually losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in a match he was favoured to win. He took several weeks off and is using Rio to tune up for three months of clay-court play leading to the French Open.

Ferrer and Bellucci had to wait for more than an hour with the Spaniard leading 2-1 in the third set when the lights went out at the outdoor stadium.

"It was really tough," Ferrer said. "When the match was stopped it was practically in my hands. It was bad luck with what happened with the lights."

Dolgopolov was asked if he planned to return to Ukraine, perhaps pulling out of the tournament to go to a country bordering on civil war.

"I don't think it's going to change a lot at this point if I just finished playing and come back to my country," Dolgopolov said. "It's still going to be the same situation. I will just be closer. But I am not considering that at this moment."

This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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