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Nadal beats Struff to reach Barcelona Open semifinals

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal brushed off a challenge from German Jan-Lennard Struff to earn a 7-5, 7-5 win and a place in the Barcelona Open semifinals on Friday. 

The top-seeded Nadal will next face either Dominic Thiem or Guido Pella as he seeks a 12th title on the outdoor clay courts at Barcelona.

Struff, who beat last year’s runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in the previous round, fought back from an early break to make a match of it.

Nadal avoided a first-set tiebreaker by pushing Struff into a 0-40 hole on his final service game. He then closed out the set when Struff could only stab his passing shot off the court.

Both players held serve in the second set until Nadal again broke Struff’s final service game. Nadal finished the match by chasing down a ball and landing a backhand return just inside the opposing corner. Nadal improved his record at Barcelona to 61-3.

Also on Friday, Japan’s two-time Barcelona Open champion Kei Nishikori won a clay slugfest with Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 7-5 to move into the semifinals for a fourth time.

Nishikori will take on Russian Daniil Medvedev on Saturday after the seventh seed stopped lucky loser Nicolas Jarry of Chile 6-3, 6-4.

Nishikori, the winner here in 2014 and 2015, served out victory after his 104th-ranked opponent slipped in the penultimate game and appeared to strain a right thigh muscle.

Carballes Baena took an injury time out before returning to court as Nishikori wrapped up the win, his 16th of the season.

“In the first set, everything was working well for me,” Nishikori said. “I was hitting my forehand heavy, which I think you need to do on clay.”

The contest quickly turned into a series of pounding groundstrokes from both players, Nishikori striking first when he broke in the opening game — enough to claim the first set. But Carballes Baena struck back in the second, with Nishikori missing on eight break point chances in his opponent’s first three service games.

Fourth seed Nishikori finally broke for 6-5 though as Carballes Baena suffered his mishap.

“It was frustrating missing on those break points, I twice had 40-0,” Nishikori said. “Mentally it was not easy at all.

“But I knew I was playing well, I tried to stay steady even through he was pushing me, I just tried to play my tennis.

“In the second, he started to play better, the last two games were very good tennis for me.”

The win was the 22nd here for Nishikori, who has won two of his three matches against Medvedev, including the Brisbane final in January.
Last Modified: Saturday، 27 April 2019 02:53 PM