Madrid – Spain's Rafael Nadal saw a seemingly routine match turn into a dogfight but eventually held on to defeat France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.
The world No. 2 controlled play in the early going of Wednesday night's match mainly thanks to poor play by the Frenchman, who sent numerous ground strokes well over the baseline and missed a handful of makeable volleys.
The Spaniard broke serve in the first game of the match and, after fending off three break points in the fourth game, rolled to an easy first-set victory in just 40 minutes.
Nadal kept the momentum at the start of the second set, holding two break points in the first game that he failed to convert before eventually breaking serve in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead by capitalizing on more sloppy play from the Frenchman.
The Spaniard served for the match for the first time a few games later but Tsonga found his range just in time to even the score at 5-5 and then got another break of serve a few minutes later to force a third set.
Tsonga then played even with Nadal for most of the deciding set, but the Spaniard's defense and consistency eventually won out over the Frenchman's bigger serving.
"It wasn't one of my best matches ... Jo had much more mistakes than usual ... that make the match less complicated for me at the beginning," Nadal said in the post-match press conference.
"When he started to play a little bit better and I have advantage in the score in the second set with the break, I started to play more defensive," Nadal said.
He noted that the Frenchman's numerous errors in the early going meant the match didn't have the "right rhythm" and "so when I arrived to that last game (of the second set) I really didn't had the right line how to win the points."
Tsonga, for his part, complained afterward that the stadium court played slower than the outer courts (where he had played his earlier rounds) and said the referee had shown favoritism to Nadal with respect to the line calls.
"If (the ball) is really close, he would never say out against Rafa," Tsonga said, suggesting that if the 10-time Grand Slam champion "don't like him anymore, I mean, he would not be in the chair many times on final and semifinal."
With the win, Nadal ran his record against Tsonga to 7-3 and advanced for the fifth time to the semifinals of the Miami Masters, a tournament he has never won.
Next up for the Spaniard will be world No. 4 Andy Murray of Scotland, who earlier Wednesday had rallied to defeat Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Referring to Friday's contest, Nadal said he hopes that a nagging knee problem will not hinder him.
"Always playing Andy is a pleasure for me, and exciting playing against a player like him that push you at the limit on everything," Nadal said.
"The negative thing is I have to recover well. I have to improve my knee if I really want to have any chance to win."
The other two men's quarterfinal matches will be played Thursday and pit Argentina's Juan Monaco against American Mardy Fish in the day session and world No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia against Spain's David Ferrer at night.
The Sony Ericsson Open is one of nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and among the biggest hard-court tournaments on the tennis calendar.