By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Eleven-times champion Rafael Nadal booked his place in the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open by beating German Jan-Lennard Struff 7-5 7-5 in a hard-fought encounter on Friday.
The world number two will meet either Dominic Thiem or Guido Pella, who play later, in the last four.
Struff, ranked 51st in the world and a renowned doubles player, had impressed in Barcelona by knocking out 10th seed David Goffin and last year’s runner up Stefanos Tsitsipas and was facing Nadal for the first time in a competitive match.
The Mallorcan broke for the first time in the game to take a 3-1 lead with a powerful forehand winner down the line but Struff broke back to make it 4-4.
Nadal broke his opponent for a second time to avoid a tie-break and take the set.
Neither player gave much away in a finely balanced second set, and Struff managed to save a break point in the eighth game to keep things finely balanced, but Nadal was saving his best tennis for the 12th game.
Nadal quickly earned three match points and seizing the second with a magnificent backhand down the line, ended the game in one hour and 43 minutes.
“Me and my coaches knew he (Struff) was going to play aggressively, it was one of those matches where every point counts, he put me under a lot of pressure so I had to play through that but my serve was solid throughout,” Nadal said.
“I’m aware that I was facing someone who has beaten Tsitsipas and Goffin this week so I’m very happy that I was able to win.”
Japan’s Kei Nishikori also made it into the last four after seeing off Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4 7-5 and will face Russian Daniil Medvedev, who ended Chilean Nicolas Jarry’s tournament with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 victory.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)