Murray and Nadal advance to Barcelona Open semifinals
BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray advanced together again, reaching the Barcelona Open semifinals on Friday, in the same manner they have won all week: Nadal cruised and Murray labored.
Defending champion Nadal eased past Hyeon Chung of South Korea 7-6 (1), 6-2.
Murray fought hard to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Ramos-Vinolas had chances to beat Murray for the second straight time, but the top-ranked British player controlled the decisive points to close out the match in three hours.
The 19th-ranked Ramos-Vinolas eliminated Murray in the third round at the Monte Carlo Masters last week before eventually losing to Nadal in the final.
"It was very similar to the match in Monte Carlo, except in that match I was the one who had chances, and today he had more chances to win," Murray said. "I feel like I was a little more aggressive at the end of the second and third sets and then played a good tiebreak."
Murray will play fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria, who defeated lucky loser Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-1, 6-2.
Murray comfortably won the tiebreaker from a 4-0 lead, but he only got there after saving seven break points and converting all three he had against Ramos-Vinolas.
The Spaniard broke at 4-4 in the decisive set but failed to serve out the match. In the second set, Ramos-Vinolas squandered two break points at 3-3, and three at 4-4.
Losing to Ramos-Vinolas at Monte Carlo prompted Murray to enter Barcelona. He's out to regain his form for the French Open following a right elbow injury.
"I'm obviously tired, but that's why it was important for me to get matches, especially ones like today," Murray said. "It's good physically to have the long ones."
Nadal, seeking his 10th Barcelona title, struggled in the first set but took control of the match after winning the tiebreaker. He broke Chung to start the second set and cruised to his second straight semifinal appearance.
Nadal said of Chung: "He has good potential, great backhand and very quick. He has all the right things to be a good player. He had chances in the first set and I'm happy that I started to play better after the first six games."
Nadal will play the semifinals against Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, who didn't drop a serve in beating Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 6-1.
Zeballos is trying to reach his first ATP final since a title run in Vina del Mar four years ago.
Thiem was broken in the beginning of both sets but powered his way to victory against Sugita, who was coming off wins against Tommy Robredo, Richard Gasquet, and Pablo Carreno Busta.
"I knew he was in great shape after beating three great players before me," Thiem said. "My game plan was to take him out of his comfort zone. I sliced a lot and tried to play with high spin."
Thiem won the Rio de Janeiro title this year.