ATP Barcelona: Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori lead semifinal charge

Much of the quarterfinals were played under the threat of rain on Friday at the Barcelona Open, but nothing could stop the final four from earning their places in the semifinals. The two most recent champions remain on track, but they will have some surprise opponents standing in their way when the semifinals take place tomorrow. Here’s what happened on day five at the Barcelona Open.

Results

The most anticipated match of the day was the rematch between top seed Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini. The Italian beat Nadal three times last year, twice on clay, including the third round at this very tournament. The Spaniard was hoping for revenge and he got just that, defeating Fognini 6-2, 7-6(1). Nadal dominated the opening set, looking every bit like the King of Clay. However, he suffered a lull in the second set which, combined with some great play from Fognini, nearly cost him the set. But a late comeback and a dominant tiebreak sent Nadal into the last four for the ninth time. Check out the full recap of Nadal’s victory.

Nadal pumps his fist during his victory over Fognini. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Nadal pumps his fist during his victory over Fognini. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

In the semifinals, Nadal will take an 11-1 head-to-head advantage into his clash with Philipp Kohlschreiber. The tenth seed dominated Andrey Kuznetsov, topping the Russian 6-3, 6-1. The heavy-hitting German saved all four break points he faced in the match, while converting four of his eight opportunities, two in each set, to wrap up the victory in just under an hour and 20 minutes. The first set was competitive, with both men having four chances to break serve. Kohlschreiber converted one and then broke again when Kuznetsov tried to serve to stay in the set. The second set was dominated by the German, as he broke twice and did not allow a single break point against his serve. He will face his biggest challenge yet in the semifinals. Kohlschreiber has never won a set against Nadal on clay.

Kei Nishikori remained on track for a third consecutive title in Barcelona, overcoming an early challenge from Alexandr Dolgopolov before racing to the finish line, topping the erratic Ukrainian 7-5, 6-0. The first set was competitive, with both men matching each other shot for shot. Neither managed a break of serve until 5-5, when the second seed converted his fourth break point of the set to give himself a 6-5 lead. That would prove to be the end of Dolgopolov’s fight, as not only did Nishikori hold to claim the set, he did not lose another game for the remainder of the match. The two-time defending champion finished the match by winning the last nine games in a row.

Kei Nishikori hits a backhand during his quarterfinal win. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Kei Nishikori hits a backhand during his quarterfinal win. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Nishikori will look to reach his third straight final at the Barcelona Open when he takes on Benoit Paire, who fought back to beat the surprise quarterfinalist Malek Jaziri 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. It was the Tunisian veteran who got off to the quicker start, breaking Paire twice in the opening set for the early lead. The pair once again exchanged breaks in the early stages before Paire broke the heart of the Tunisian, who was two games away from his first ATP World Tour semifinal, by breaking late to claim the second set. The momentum was firmly in the corner of the Frenchman in the decider, as he broke Jaziri twice in the final set and was a perfect 14 for 14 on his first serve to wrap up the victory and set the clash with Nishikori. 

The semifinals will take place tomorrow with Nishikori and Paire doing battle, followed by Nadal and Kohlschreiber. It is worth noting that Nadal has never lost at the Barcelona Open after reaching the semifinals. 

VAVEL Logo