Auckland - Defending champion David Ferrer stormed into the semi-finals of the Auckland ATP tournament on Thursday, setting up a intriguing clash with resurgent Frenchman Gael Monfils for a spot in the decider.
Top seed Ferrer needed less than an hour to swat aside Lukas Lacko of Slovakia 6-2, 6-1 at the warm-up event for next week's Australian Open, cracking forehand winners seemingly at will to break his hapless opponent's serve.
The Spaniard, chasing a record-equalling fourth Auckland title, looked far more dynamic than in his second-round match on Wednesday, saying he adjusted his game after being wrong-footed initially by the speed of the court.
"It's never easy but I played a very good game today, I had a good feeling with my game and my shots," the world number five said. "Yesterday was a surprise for me but today I feel better."
Ferrer said he would need to be at the top of his game for Friday's semi-final against Monfils, the former world number seven who has beaten the Spaniard in all three of their previous meetings.
The Frenchman, granted a wild card here as he returns from a knee injury that saw his ranking plummet, was involved in undoubtedly the most entertaining quarter-final of the day, downing evergreen German Tommy Haas 3-6,7-5, 6-3.
Third seed Haas started stronger in a tense match that at various times saw both players pick arguments with the chair umpire, taking the first set 6-3 after a rash of errors from Monfils.
The Frenchman found form in a second set, covering the court with typical energy and unleashing some spectacular winners to take a crucial service break in the fourth game.
It proved a turning point, with Monfils going on to win the set 7-5 and 34-year-old Haas fading as the match wore on, eventually conceding the third set 6-3 after more than two hours on court.
Second seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany eased past Belgium's Xavier Malisse 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 to reach the semi-finals for the fourth time in nine appearances.
Kohlschreiber, the 2008 Auckland champion, will play Sam Querry for a place in the final after the American fourth seed defeated Canada's Jesse Levine 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).
The pair have met three times before, with the big-serving Querry enjoying a 2-1 winning record over the German.