Nadal in Rome semis
ROME (AP): Rafael Nadal overcame a slow start to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-1 in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters yesterday.
Aiming for his fifth title at the Foro Italico in six years, Nadal had trouble finding his range off Wawrinka's powerful serve but finally managed to break the 26th-ranked Swiss player to close out the first set, then cruised from there.
Wawrinka, the 2008 runner-up, dropped only two points in his first four service games.
"The first set was level for a long time. He was holding serve much easier than me. All the games on my serve were harder than his," Nadal said. "But at 5-4 I started to play really well with some good drop shots."
Nadal then began approaching the net in the second set.
"I am going to the net more," he said. "You can go to the net more when you're dominating the points."
Nadal improved his record on clay this season to 8-0, having won the Monte Carlo Masters two weeks ago.
"I played well, but I was definitely playing better in Monte Carlo," Nadal said.
Nadal's only loss at this French Open warm-up came against fellow Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in the opening round two years ago, when he was bothered by a foot blister.
Nadal's semi-final opponent will be either Ernests Gulbis or Feliciano Lopez, who were playing the night match.
Earlier, Fernando Verdasco extended his impressive form on clay with a gruelling 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 win over Novak Djokovic.
Verdasco has reached the final of his last two events - losing to Nadal in Monte Carlo and winning last week's Barcelona Open. In the semi-finals, Verdasco will face David Ferrer, who cruised past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-1.
Roger Federer and Swiss Davis Cup teammate Yves Allegro were eliminated from the doubles tournament by American pair John Isner and Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4.
Federer lost his opener in singles to Gulbis on Tuesday.
Between Verdasco and Djokovic the first set alone lasted nearly 11/2 hours and the sixth-seeded Verdasco closed out the match with an ace down the middle after three hours, 18 minutes of long baseline rallies under a glaring sun.
"When you face someone who always makes you play one more shot on every point it's not easy to play a quick match," Djokovic said. "So I knew it was going to be a long match today.
"The match could have gone either way. It was decided by one or two points."