(Reuters) – Rafael Nadal has earned his place in the Barcelona Open semi-finals with victory over Jan-Lennard Struff.
The world number two is favourite to win the clay-court event in Spain, but he was made to work for a 7-5, 7-5 win against Struff.
Rafa 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.
Rafa 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 Rafa was saving his best tennis for the 12th game.
Our champ 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.
After the match, Rafa said:
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.
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.
Rafa will face either Dominic Thiem or Guido Pella for a place in the final. He has never lost in a Barcelona semi-final (11-0).