Rafael Nadal rallied to advance to the French Open semi-finals for the ninth time, beating David Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 on Wednesday.
The eight-time champion at Roland Garros dropped a set at this year’s tournament for the first time, but then seemed to race through the next three to ensure he had the day off on Thursday.
Nadal will next face Andy Murray in the semifinals on Friday. Murray, who missed last year’s tournament because of a back injury, held on to beat Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0.
The tennis started late at Roland Garros on Thursday, with the two women’s quarterfinal matches only beginning after a rain delay of about three hours. Andrea Petkovic and Simona Halep both won, and one of them will be in a Grand Slam final for the first time on Saturday.
Nadal improved his record to 64-1 at the French Open, and stretched his unbeaten streak to 33. His only loss came in the fourth round of the 2009 tournament, when Robin Soderling beat him.
Nadal played Ferrer, last year’s runner-up, on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the second biggest stadium at Roland Garros. Although Nadal has won a record eight titles at the clay-court Grand Slam, he was pushed to the smaller court so Monfils and Murray could play on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Monfils had been trying to become the first Frenchman to win the title at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah in 1983, but instead it was Murray that made his way back into the French Open semifinals for the second time.
In 2011, the Wimbledon champion lost to Nadal at the same stage.
The women’s matches were more straightforward.
Petkovic, a 28th-seeded German, beat 2012 French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy 6-2, 6-2. The fourth-seeded Halep defeated 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, also 6-2, 6-2.
“I have to say, today I was in a real zone. I didn’t think at all,” Petkovic said. “I was just focused on what I had to do.”
Neither Petkovic nor Halep has ever played in the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament. But they will meet on Thursday with a spot in the final against either Maria Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard on the line.
Petkovic was first to complete her match. And although she had some trouble holding serve at the start of each set, her groundstrokes consistently landed near the lines, many of them for winners.
“I had a very good game plan from my coach. It didn’t work in the beginning, so I was getting a little, not panicked, but when you have a certain game plan and you lose the first two games and it’s not working, so I was kind of getting a little worried,” Petkovic said. “I was lucky that I started playing better and that I was putting more balls into play.”
The match started under overcast skies after the three-hour delay. The rain briefly returned in the first set but didn’t interrupt play.
Although Petkovic was broken to open each set, she won the final six games of the first set, and the final four games of the second.
“Very, very tired. I didn’t have, mentally, (any) energy,” Errani said. “I don’t know why I was dead. I (didn’t) have power (in) my legs.”
Petkovic had been 0-3 in major quarterfinals, losing at that stage at the Australian Open, French Open and US Open in 2011. Her ranking dropped after that, as low as 177th last year, because of a right knee injury.
Errani was the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2012, losing to Sharapova.
Halep and Kuznetsova were on court for only four minutes when the rain started. But like the other quarterfinal match, play continued through the drizzle on Lenglen.
Kuznetsova, a two time Grand Slam champion who has not reached a major semifinal since winning the title at Roland Garros five years ago, said the weather was not to blame for her poor play.
“You can put many excuses or whatever, but I think the key is that Simona was at her best,” Kuznetsova said. “My movement was not perfect. The shots (were) not so good.”
Halep, the highest-seeded player remaining in the draw, has moved quickly up the rankings over the last year. In the last 13 months, she has won seven titles, second only to Serena Williams. But Halep is the only player to have won titles on clay, grass and hard courts during that stretch.
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