Milos Raonic to face clay master Rafael Nadal after each win twice Friday

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seven-time tournament winner Rafael Nadal and Canadian Milos Raonic will be pitted in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open, after each won two matches Friday due to rain delays earlier in the week.

The fifth seed Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., scored an impressive win over crowd favourite Tommy Robredo to reach the semis of the tournament for the second straight year. Raonic beat the Spaniard 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (2).

Earlier in the day, Raonic got past Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 7-6 (6).

“I’ve been working hard and have ben able to do some things quite well,” said Raonic. “This is one of my favourite clay events and the one where I’ve played some of my best tennis.

“It’s great to get this far and win two matches in a day. It’s nice to be playing here as I train several time a year at this club. it all feels very familiar.”

Nadal started the day by beating Benoit Paire of France 7-6 (2), 6-2. The fifth-ranked Spaniard then defeated Albert Ramos 6-3, 6-0 after his overmatched opponent had defeated Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (4) earlier in the day.

Nadal has won 37 straight matches on the Real Club de Tenis’ red clay. He was last beaten at the event 10 years ago by countryman Alex Corretja.

“It isn’t a mental or a physical difficulty playing two matches, it’s all about how the first match goes,” said Nadal. “If the first match is long and lasts three sets, it’s very different from a comfortable match of just two sets. Then it’s really nothing out of the ordinary and you can face the second match normally.”

Raonic and Nadal have met twice, both on hardcourts, with the Mallorcan winning in straight sets each time.

The other semifinal will match Spaniard Nicolas Almagro against German Phillip Kohlschreiber.

Almagro beat Juan Monaco 6-3, 7-5 after he broke the Argentine’s serve late before serving out the second set.

“I’m excited to have a shot at making my first final here in Barcelona, but it won’t be easy,” Almagro said. “Kohlschreiber has a great return.”

Kohlschreiber made the semifinals after the German advanced two rounds despite playing just six games on Friday.

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

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