Nadal through to Barcelona quarters

Seven-time winner Rafael Nadal advanced to the Barcelona Open quarterfinals by beating Benoit Paire of France 7-6 (2), 6-2 on Friday.

Paire broke Nadal’s first service game, but when the fifth-ranked Spaniard found his rhythm he had little trouble extending his winning streak on the Real Club de Tenis’ red clay to 36 straight matches.

The match was originally scheduled for Thursday but was postponed because of rain. If the weather holds up, Nadal will play Albert Ramos later Friday after he beat Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Playing two matches in the same day should be a good test of how improved Nadal’s knee was since he returned in February from a nagging case of tendinitis in his left knee that had sidelined him for more than half a year.

Nadal has reached five straight finals- winning three- heading into Barcelona, but his loss to Novak Djokovic last weekend that ended his eight-year winning run at Monte Carlo awakened questions of whether he’s ready to compete for the much more grueling French Open next month.

”We’ll see how the day goes. For the moment I’ve done the important thing which is to win the first match,” Nadal said. ”I’m taking it step-by-step. Let’s see if I can play better in the second match.”

Also, Tommy Robredo fought back from a set down to eliminate sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the third round.

The unseeded Robredo hit a winner that clipped the baseline to break Berdych’s serve for the fourth time on match point.

Robredo will face Milos Raonic later Friday in the quarterfinals. The Canadian defeated Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Fourth-seeded Nicolas Almagro beat Juan Monaco 6-3, 7-5 to make his third semifinal in the Catalan capital after he broke the Argentine’s serve late before serving out the second set.

Almagro will play Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the semifinals after the German advanced two rounds despite playing just six games on Friday.

Kohlschreiber downed Martin Klizan of Slovakia 1-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) after their third-round match was postponed on Thursday because of rain with Klizan leading 4-3 in the third set. Kohlschreiber then automatically advanced to the semifinals after Thomaz Bellucci withdrew.

In the main match, Nadal got off to a sluggish start and Paire hit a winner off one of his second serves to get the early advantage.

After squandering three break points in Paire’s first service game, Nadal broke back to pull level at 3-3 with defensive slices that Paire eventually sent long.

Nadal’s steady ground game forced Paire to make three errors in the tiebreaker and cede the first set.

Nadal took control of the second set when he broke Paire to love to go ahead 3-2 after the Frenchman’s serve suddenly failed him and he hit consecutive double-faults.

Paire had a chance to break back in the next game but hit long and slammed his racket into the ground. Nadal went on to take the game and sealed the match when Paire’s drop shot fell well short.

Nadal last lost at the Barcelona Open 10 years ago to Spain’s Davis Cup captain, Alex Corretja.