Tennis: Nadal, Serena battle through, Sharapova cruises

Rafael Nadal overcame a stiff test from compatriot David Ferrer to reach the Madrid Masters semi-finals Friday while Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova stayed on course for a mouth-watering title showdown.

World number five Nadal had to come from a set and a break down to win 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-0 over world number four Ferrer.

Nadal admitted that recovering the break when Ferrer led 4-2 in the second set was the key moment.

"I was up and down through the whole match and when you are up and down against David it is difficult to win," said Nadal, who had also been two points from defeat in the 12th game of the second set.

"I am very happy and I was lucky to come through at the end of the match. He was very unlucky not to be in the semi-finals.

"At a set and 4-2 down I am not worried, I am very worried."

Despite being seeded above Nadal, due to the seven-time French Open winner's seven-month injury lay-off, Ferrer was still left nursing a record of just four wins in their 22 meetings.

"If you don't take your chances against Rafa, you pay dearly. Against Rafa, Novak, Roger or Murray there's no room for error," admitted Ferrer.

However, the fourth seed didn't seem overawed early on as he broke to close out the opening set when a fine crosscourt forehand set up an easy volleyed winner in the 10th game.

Ferrer then looked on course to cause another upset after the surprise defeats of the world's top two, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, when he moved 4-2 up in the second.

However, Nadal, who hasn't lost on clay to Ferrer for nine years, swiftly broke back to level the set and then took it on the tie-break 7/3.

And there was no stopping the 11-time Grand Slam winner thereafter as he stormed through the third 6-0.

Victory took the 2005 and 2010 Madrid champion's record to 29-2 since he returned to action in early February, and the Spaniard can reach his seventh consecutive final when he faces wildcard Pablo Andujar in another all Spanish affair in the semi-finals.

World number 113 Andujar reached a first Masters semi-final with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Roger Federer's conqueror in the last round, Kei Nishikori.

In the women's event, Williams and Sharapova stayed on course for a battle for the world number one slot in the final as they progressed into the last four with wins over Anabel Medina Garrigues and Kaia Kanepi respectively.

However, current number one Williams was given a huge scare by 30-year-old wildcard Garrigues before battling through 6-3, 0-6, 7-5.

In an uncharacteristically wild performance, Williams racked up nearly 50 unforced errors throughout the nearly two and a quarter hours of play, and she is determined to start afresh when she faces Sara Errani in the semi-finals on Saturday.

"I definitely want to cut back on my unforced errors," said Williams, who conceded a love-set for only the seventh time in her career.

"The fact is I was able to get through it. Tomorrow I start out at 0-0, so it's important for me to let it go and just play a new match tomorrow."

There were far fewer problems for Sharapova as she continued her run of not losing a set so far in the Spanish capital with a comfortable 6-2, 6-4 win over world number 51 Kanepi.

"I was just happy to get past the quarter-finals," said Sharapova who goes on to face Ana Ivanovic for a place in the final.

"I feel like I've been stuck in this tournament so it's nice to be in that stage. I felt like I was facing a really good clay court player today. A lot of her success has come on clay.

"I faced her at the French Open where she had really good wins last year, so I know that she's capable and she's playing really well.

"So I was just really determined. I'm happy that I was able to win with that type of scoreline."

Ivanovic sealed her place in the last four with a 6-3, 6-1 win over sixth seed Angelique Kerber, whilst seventh seed Errani ended Ekaterina Makarova's fine tournament, 6-4, 6-3.