Spain's Rafael Nadal continued his smooth progression through the Mexican Open draw, defeating Argentina's Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 7-5 to reach the semifinals of this clay-court event.
With the win Thursday night in one hour and 41 minutes, Nadal has now reached the semifinals of his first three tournaments following a seven-month hiatus due to a knee injury.
The second-seeded Spaniard was pushed by the 77th ranked Argentine, particularly in the second set, and forced to hit close to the lines to seize control of the rallies.
The second set seemed like it might be decided by a tiebreaker, but a double fault by Mayer in the 12th game proved costly and the world No. 5 pulled out the win.
Next up for Nadal in Friday's semifinals will be countryman Nicolas Almagro, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Argentina's Horacio Zeballos.
The other semifinal of the Mexican Open, which is being played in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, will pit top seed and world No. 4 David Ferrer of Spain against Italy's Fabio Fognini.
In the first two tournaments of his comeback, both also played on clay, Nadal lost in the final of an event in Viña del Mar, Chile to Zeballos and then defeated David Nalbandian in the final of Sao Paulo.
In the women's draw, Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino lost in the quarterfinals Thursday to France's Alize Cornet 3-6, 7-6 (12-10), 7-6 (7-2) in three hours and 33 minutes, the longest match of the tournament.
Cornet will next face Italy's Sara Errani, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over the Netherlands' Kiki Bertens, in one semifinal.
The other semifinal will be an all-Spanish battle between Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Carla Suarez-Navarro. EFE