Spaniards Ferrer, Bautista Agut join Nadal in Madrid semifinals

Madrid, May 9 (EFE).- Spain's David Ferrer and Roberto Bautista Agut recorded straight-set victories Friday to join countryman and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the Madrid Masters.

The 45th-ranked Bautista Agut defeated the player just below him in the ATP rankings, Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo, 6-3, 6-4 in the day's second men's quarterfinal clash.

In a match between two players who had never before reached the quarterfinals of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, the Spaniard staved off all six break points he faced and broke Giraldo's serve once each set.

Looking ahead to his next match against Nadal, Bautista Agut said the 13-time Grand Slam champion, who is looking this week to win his 19th Masters title on his beloved clay courts, is the favorite "wherever he plays."

But "if I have a chance to win, I'll try to win," the Spaniard added.

Ferrer, who broke Nadal's 30-match winning streak on clay at this year's Monte Carlo event, was too solid in Friday's third quarterfinal match against Latvia's Ernests Gulbis, winning 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

Gulbis' serve clocked in as fast as 227 kmh (141 mph) but Ferrer weathered the storm to win the match in one hour and 40 minutes and will next take on either another Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez, or red-hot world No. 12 Kei Nishikori of Japan.

In Friday's first quarterfinal, Nadal dominated Czech world No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2 to erase some doubts about his clay-court form ahead of this year's French Open.

Nadal had uncharacteristically struggled earlier in the European clay-court season, losing in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open to Ferrer and another Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, respectively.

But Nadal looked as sharp as ever against Berdych, blasting forehand winners, moving crisply and serving effectively throughout the one-hour, 27-minute match.

In women's singles, American world No. 1 Serena Williams withdrew from her Friday quarterfinal match against the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova due to a thigh strain.

Also advancing to the semifinals were eighth-seeded Maria Sharapova, who defeated China's Li Na 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3; Romania's Simona Halep, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Serbia's Ana Ivanovic; and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, who edged French qualifier Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

The Madrid tournament is one of the biggest clay-court events on the ATP and WTA calendars and a major tune-up for the French Open, which gets underway on May 25.