Federer, Venus safely through
Federer thanks the crowd (AFP)
Madrid - Roger Federer clinched a revenge win over Ernests Gulbis to reach the Madrid Masters semi-finals on Friday while Rafael Nadal also made the last four to move closer to reclaiming the world number two spot.
Defending champion Federer claimed a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over his Latvian opponent, who had won their second-round meeting three weeks ago in Rome.
Federer will face Spanish ninth seed David Ferrer who defeated British third seed Andy Murray 7-5, 6-3 in a match which ended just before 1am on Saturday.
"I knew it would be a tough match after losing to him," said 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer.
"I was always a bit worried. I got off to a slow start in the first set and paid the price. In the second I recovered and won six games in a row and got on a tear.
"I'm very happy with my performance and very glad to be in the the semis. I didn't have much rhythm in the first set - but I recovered well. I served well and hit the ball very cleanly. I thought it was a good performance even after my poor start."
There was a 6-1, 6-3 win for Nadal, the 2005 champion here when it was played indoors, over Frenchman Gael Monfils.
The world number three kept his clay record in 2010 at a spotless 13-0, with Masters 1000 titles at the only two tournaments he has completed so far, Monte Carlo and Rome.
Nadal improved to 6-1 over Monfils, whom he beat while carrying an abdominal injury at the US Open last autumn.
The second seed next faces compatriot Nicolas Almagro, who put out Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1, where a victory will return him to the number two ranking.
"He's a very good player, he's good for the show," said Nadal of Monfils. "Sometimes he takes things to the limit but he's great."
Nadal advanced in a brief 78 minutes over the 12th seed, producing 16 winners and the same number of unforced errors. He also broke four times.
"He has been showing a high level in every match," Nadal said of his next opponent Almagro. "He has played against great opponents this week. He's going to be a very tough rival and I'll do my best."
In the WTA event, Venus Williams reinforced her pending move back to the world number two ranking with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Australia's Samantha Stosur to reach the semi-finals.
Venus, who began this week in fourth place, will fall in behind her top-ranked sister Serena on the Monday WTA rankings list, with the pair heading the table for the first time in seven years.
French Open semi-finalist Stosur, set for a career-high boost to seventh, has been the standout of the clay campaign, winning 14 of 15 matches coming into her clash with the American with a title in Charleston and a losing final - her only other clay defeat in 2010 - to Justine Henin.
But as in their three previous meetings, Williams claimed victory, going through to the last four against Israeli Shahar Peer, who defeated Li Na of China 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
"Sam's been playing well this season," said Williams, winner of title this year in Dubai and Acapulco.
"I like to hit hard, and it looked like her game plan was to attack everything. She tried to take time away from me, but I knew I would not be pushed back. We both served and hit as hard as we could."
France's Arvane Rezai upset seventh seed Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-4 and will face Czech Lucie Safarova, the Paris Indoor finalist in February.
Safarova reached the semis with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 win over Russian 16th seed Nadia Petrova, who put out Serena Williams.