Spain's Rafael Nadal has taken another step forward in his comeback, advancing to the semifinals of the VTR Open with a 6-1, 6-4 win here over countryman Daniel Gimeno-Traver.

Nadal, who made his return to the ATP Tour this week after a seven-month hiatus due to a knee injury and illness, will next take on dangerous Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, a 6-2, 6-3 winner in the quarterfinals over Italy's Paolo Lorenzi.

The world No. 5 broke Gimeno-Traver's serve twice in the early going of Friday's quarterfinal match en route to a comfortable first-set win.

He encountered more resistance from his opponent in the second set, but managed to secure a break of serve in the ninth game and then stave off four break points to serve out the match in his first opportunity.

Later Friday, Nadal and Argentina's Juan Monaco reached the doubles final with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Argentines Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer.

In Sunday's championship match, they will take on the Italian team of Lorenzi and Potito Starace, who saved match points to edge Andrey Kuznetsov and Andre Sa 5-7, 6-3 (11-9) in the other semifinal.

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.

Nadal 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 gets underway in May.

The former world No. 1 and 11-time Grand Slam champion 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