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Nadal wins 2 matches to reach Barcelona semis


Barcelona, Apr 26 (EFE).- Spain's Rafael Nadal was forced to do double duty on Friday at the Barcelona Open, but he moved into the semifinals after wins over France's Benoit Paire and countryman Albert Ramos.

The seven-time champion struggled in the early match against Paire, a contest that was initially scheduled for Thursday but was postponed until Friday at 10:30 a.m. due to rain.

Lacking his usually vitality at the outset, Nadal fell behind an early break but managed to recover and force a first-set tiebreaker en route to a 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 win.

The quarterfinal match, which started late Friday afternoon, featured little drama as the world No. 5 did not face a single break point against Ramos and dominated from start to finish to win 6-3, 6-0.

"The day went well. In the morning, I just got through because I didn't feel comfortable, whereas in the afternoon I came out more aggressively," Nadal said afterward.

"I was able to win the two matches in straight sets so I'm happy."

Next up for Nadal in Saturday's second semifinal will be big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, who defeated Latvia's Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) early Friday afternoon before squeaking past 30-year-old Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) in the evening.

Nadal told reporters he is wary of Raonic's powerful serve, noting that the Canadian can do a lot of damage if he uses that weapon to maximum effect.

Also Friday, Spain's Nicolas Almagro advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Argentina's Juan Monaco.

Almagro, the world No. 12 and fourth seed at this clay-court event, did not drop serve despite having to save 10 break points during the one-hour, 40-minute quarterfinal match.

Although he put just 47 percent of his first serves in play, Almagro struck nine aces and won a high 82 percent of his first-serve points.

Monaco, known for his conservative serving tactics, put 66 percent of his serves in play but won just 59 percent of those points, compared with a 73 percent success rate on his second-serve points.

In the end, one break per set proved to be enough for Almagro, who advanced to a semifinal match-up Saturday against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The German overcame Slovakia's Martin Klizan 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-5) in over two and a half hours early Friday afternoon and, like Nadal and Raonic, was to have played his quarterfinal match later in the afternoon.

But he caught a break when his scheduled opponent, Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci, pulled out of the tournament with an injury.

The Barcelona Open is one of the biggest clay-court events on the ATP calendar and a key tune-up for the French Open, which gets underway next month. EFE