ATP Barcelona: Rafael Nadal powers through Philipp Kohlschreiber to advance to final

Coming into the match undefeated on clay against his opponent, Rafael Nadal had every reason to be confident. Philipp Kohlschreiber, who has only beaten Nadal once, had his work cut out for him.

A dominant serve powered the Spaniard through the first set, while the second set featured a better effort from his German  adversary. After one hour and 31 minutes of action, Nadal was the victor, 6-3, 6-3, in the semifinal of the Barcelona Open.

Nadal's Serve: Can't touch this

It appeared that Nadal would be the heavy favorite from the get-go; those notions were met with some doubt as Kohlschreiber cranked out two winners on his first two return points. The German's early luck quickly ran out as he lost the next three points and eventually the game after a single deuce. It would be a long time before he would win another return point. The tenth seed held serve at 15 to bring the game score to even, but he was quickly dismissed at love by the top seeded player.

The pattern continued: Kohlschreiber held, and Nadal thrashed his way to a hold at love. Finally, in the sixth game, the match saw its first break point chance; Nadal couldn't capture that one, but two points later, the right-hander hit an unlucky shot off the top of the net that couldn't land in play.

Nadal took the break and a 4-2 lead. The next game featured a third consecutive hold at love for the world number five; that brought his service points won streak to eleven. The world number 27 fought off a set point at 30-40--winning three consecutive points to hold and bring his deficit to 3-5. Kohlschreiber also ended his unlucky streak on returns at 12 when Nadal carried a backhand wide. The 29-year-old closed out the set with a hold at 30 to win the first set, 6-3.

Rafael Nadal of Spain serves against Philipp Kohlschreiber. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The first set can be summed up by two statistics. Nadal only gave up five points on his serve, while Kohlschreiber made 19 unforced errors--ten more than his opponent. One area that the German was able to excel in was his net play. He converted on four of his five chances; unfortunately, he needed a lot more than five chances if he wanted to take the set.

Kohlschreiber Elevates His Game, Still Not Enough

Trailing a set to none, Kohlschreiber had to pick up his aggression or he surely wouldn't stand a chance against the player deemed the "King of Clay." If nothing else, the German's net play was his main positive early in the first set and that attacking style could potentially catch Nadal off guard. The Spaniard got off to a rough start--making three errors to kick off the set. Then, the 32-year-old had his turn with three errors of his own. At deuce, Kohlschreiber ripped a cross-court forehand winner and, with the help of a backhand error on the other side of the net, he held.

With a 1-0 lead, things looked good for the underdog, that is, until Nadal decided he had one last hold at love in him. The German held one more time, and on his next return he saw his first break point chance at advantage-out. That glimmer of hope was quickly erased by an ace and another one wouldn't appear for the rest of the match. Nadal held with some momentum going into the next game; he quickly jumped out to a 15-40 lead--holding two break points. They weren't capitalized on as the lefty hit a backhand out and the right-hander fired a backhand winner cross-court.

Another backhand winner gave the German the lead in the game, but a double fault spelled doom. Nadal responded with a cross-court winner of his own--giving him his third look at a break point in the game. With an overhead smash and an ace, the momentum shifted again--this time in Kohlschreiber's favor--as he found a way to hold and take a 3-2 lead.

Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany serves against Rafael Nadal of Spain. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Hungry for a break after missing three chances, Nadal held at 30 and broke serve on his next return. The ball was back in his court, up 4-3. The 29-year-old held serve again at thirty and he was one game away from the final. Kohlschreiber wouldn't go down without a fight; he jumped out to a 40-15 lead, but he wouldn't win another point. Nadal finished the match winning the last four points to break serve one last time. The top seed took the set, 6-3.

After the first set, Kohlschreiber had ten more unforced errors than his opponent; after the second set, that differential doubled to 20. While he was a little more aggressive--winning seven of nine net points-- the German couldn't overcome a surging Nadal.

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

With a big victory in the semifinal, Nadal will advance to the final where he will meet the second-seeded Kei Nishikori, whom defeated Benoit Paire to punch his ticket. The Spaniard has won the Barcelona Open eight times and a ninth title will give him 68 clay court titles and tie Argentine legend Guillermo Vilas for most in the Open Era. Nishikori won the title last year for his second championship in Barcelona, but he has only beaten the man standing in his way once in nine attempts. The final of this Masters 500 event will take place Sunday on the Pista Central court at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona.