Nadal advances to Monte Carlo semis
Rafael Nadal was pushed all the way by Grigor Dimitrov to win his 45th straight match at the Monte Carlo Masters, reaching the semifinals with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 result on Friday.
Nadal dropped only his third set in his last five tournaments here, the previous times against Andy Murray in the 2011 semifinals and before that against Novak Djokovic in the 2009 final, and he was under pressure at 30-30 in the eighth game of the final set before nailing a crucial serve.
The eight-time defending champion sealed victory on his second match point with an ace, after Dimitrov, 17, saved the first one with a forehand winner of astonishing power from the back of the court, made even more spectacular as he was limping.
Dimitrov also took a set off Nadal at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and he thrilled the center court crowd with a superb display of attacking tennis punctuated by exquisite drop shots and ferociously struck winners off both backhand and forehand.
By regularly taking the ball early, Dimitrov unsettled Nadal's rhythm and the seven-time French Open champ was unable to dictate play.
After more than two hours of an intense contest, Dimitrov seemed to be struggling with cramp, flexing his right leg and rubbing his left thigh.
The third-seeded Nadal next meets sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Wawrinka, who defeated second-seeded Murray on Thursday, looked to be on the way to another clinical win as he held to love to win the first set, clinching it with an ace on second serve.
But Tsonga raced to a 4-1 lead in the second set, and then leveled the match after saving two break points.
Tsonga got the crucial break in the third set with a forehand pass down line and then held for 5-3.
Wawrinka saved three match points in his next service game before Tsonga sealed the victory with an ace to reach his second semi of the season. His only title this year was in Marseille in February.
Later Friday, the top-ranked Djokovic was facing Jarkko Nieminen of Finland and seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet of France played Fabio Fognini of Italy.