Briefly, and only briefly, Rafael Nadal was in a difficult spot in the French Open quarterfinals.
For the first time in this year’s tournament, the eight-time champion dropped a set.
And this had to be on Nadal’s mind: His opponent, David Ferrer, could present real problems. Not only is Ferrer ranked No. 5, and not only was he the runner-up at Roland Garros a year ago – to Nadal, of course – but he also beat Nadal on red clay the last time they played each other.
So how did Nadal handle this test? Perfectly.
From late in the second set, he won 10 games in a row, and 13 of 14 the rest of the way, to come back and beat Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 in Paris, setting up a semifinal Friday against Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
“At the beginning, David was playing with a higher intensity than me,” Nadal said.
But once Nadal decided to dispense with his surprisingly off-target backhand as much as possible, he took over. After committing 28 unforced errors across the windy first two sets, Nadal had zero in the third, and only three in the last.
Ferrer, for his part, said that in the latter stages, “I lost my concentration, my focus.”
It was Nadal’s 33rd consecutive win at the French Open and improved his record in the event to 64-1. His only loss at the tournament came to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.
The route Murray took during his 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0 victory over No. 23 Gael Monfils of France was far more circuitous, finishing right on the cusp of dusk after 9:30 p.m. In front of a crowd loudly pulling for Monfils at Court Philippe Chatrier, Murray was terrific at the outset, mediocre in the middle, then closed on a high.
“Everything happened very fast,” Monfils said.
“It was so dark at the end,” Murray said. “Thankfully for me, he played a poor fifth set once I got ahead.”
The other men’s semifinal will be No. 2 Novak Djokovic against No. 18 Ernests Gulbis.
Women’s semis set
No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania and No. 28 Andrea Petkovic of Germany moved into the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. Today’s other women’s semifinal will be 2012 champion Maria Sharapova against 18th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.
Halep beat 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2, and Petkovic defeated 2012 runner-up Sara Errani by the same score.
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