Paris – Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer ensured a Spanish men's finalist at the French Open for the 10th time in 12 years with quarterfinal victories Wednesday over Nicolas Almagro and Andy Murray, respectively.
Nadal scored his 50th match victory at Roland Garros - one more than the tally of Swedish great Bjorn Borg and six short of the all-time record held by Argentina's Guillermo Vilas - by defeating Almagro, his countryman, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and 46 minutes.
More importantly, the win put him within two victories of a record seventh French Open title; Nadal currently shares that mark with Borg.
Shortly afterward, Ferrer reached the semifinals of tennis' biggest clay-court event for the first time by wrapping up a 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-2 victory over Scotland's Murray.
Although Nadal's victory was never in doubt, he was forced to play his first tiebreaker of this year's tournament in the first set against Almagro, who put the world No. 2 on his heels at times by unleashing powerful blasts off both forehand and backhand.
When it mattered most in the tiebreaker, though, Almagro made a costly error on a drop shot and later lost a 34-ball rally to fall behind 4-0, eventually ceding that first-set decider by a score of 7-4.
We (have) played each other a lot of times. His game bothers everybody because he's one of the best players in the world on every surface - on clay especially.
- Rafael Nadal on David Ferrer
The rest of the match was then practically a formality considering Nadal's record at the French Open when winning the first set was 46-0 coming into the contest, although Almagro's potent shot-making brought out the best in Nadal's defensive skills.
Nadal got good mileage out of his serve, not dropping his service once during the match and saving all four break points he faced.
For the tournament, Nadal has lost just one service game - during his first-round match against Italy's Simone Bolelli.
"You cannot expect to win an easy match in (the) quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, (the) quarterfinals of Roland Garros," Nadal said in the post-match press conference. (It) was a tough one, but I am through and I am very happy."
He also looked ahead to his semifinal against good friend Ferrer. Nadal holds a 12-1 career edge in their meetings on clay but he said he expects a difficult challenge on Friday.
"We (have) played each other a lot of times. His game bothers everybody because he's one of the best players in the world on every surface - on clay especially," Nadal said.
"He's a complete player. It's very difficult to play against him, because his movement is probably the best in the world and he's able to hit the ball very early a lot of the time."
Ferrer used his forehand to dictate most of the rallies in his grueling, three-hour, 45-minute slugfest Wednesday against Murray, shrugging off a second-set hiccup and a half-hour rain delay at the start of the third set.
The world No. 6 wore a big smile after a Murray backhand went wide on match point, thrilled to finally reach the final four of this Grand Slam event after numerous disappointing losses in previous years.
"My first time in semifinal in Roland Garros, so I feel good," Ferrer said afterwards. "It was a very tough match, and I'm very happy. Maybe it was in important moments I played better than him. I played very good with my forehand."
Referring to the daunting task that awaits him in the next round, Ferrer said he will "try and play a beautiful match, my best tennis."
"I have great ambitions, and I'm quite certain this is going to be a very physical match."
Thanks to Wednesday's results, Spain will be represented in the French Open final for the 10th time in the last 12 years; 2004 and 2009 were the only exceptions.
Nadal has played - and won - six Roland Garros finals but has never played a countryman in that round and that cannot happen this year either as Friday's other semifinal will pit world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia and world No. 3 Roger Federer of Switzerland.