The doubles team of Spain's Rafael Nadal and Argentina's Juan Monaco advanced to the semifinals of Chile's VTR Open with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) victory over the French-Italian duo of Guillaume Rufin and Filippo Volandri.
The close friends had won their opening match on Tuesday - which marked the Spaniard's return to the ATP Tour after a seven-month hiatus due to a knee injury - and continued their solid play on Thursday.
The first set took just 28 minutes as Nadal and Monaco broke their opponents' serves on two occasions.
Rufin and Volandri fared better in the second set thanks to putting in a higher percentage of first serves, but Nadal and Monaco won the big points in the tiebreaker to claim the victory.
Next up in the semifinals will be the Argentine duo of Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer, who defeated Argentina's Horacio Zeballos and Austria's Oliver Marach 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday.
Nadal won his opening singles match on Wednesday against Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-2 and will square off against fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver in Friday's quarterfinals.
The VTR Open is a small clay-court event in Viña del Mar, a coastal resort city located 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, the Chilean capital.
The former world No. 1 and 11-time Grand Slam champion also is scheduled to play two other small clay-court tournaments in February - the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo, which starts Feb. 11, and the Mexican Open in Acapulco, which begins on Feb. 25 - as part of his preparations for the French Open, which starts in May.
Nadal had not played since suffering a shock second-round exit at last year's Wimbledon at the hands of unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol, considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of that prestigious tournament.
The Spaniard's ranking only fell two spots - from No. 3 to No. 5 - despite his extended absence from the Tour and he is the top seed at the VTR Open.
Nadal had planned to return to action in late December in Abu Dhabi, but a stomach virus forced him to withdraw from that exhibition tournament and he also pulled out of the recently concluded Australian Open. EFE