Nadal breezes past Monfils
Madrid - Rafael Nadal blitzed France's Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-3 on Thursday to join fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the Madrid Masters semi-finals and preserve his perfect claycourt record this season.
World number three Nadal, the 2005 champion here when it was played indoors, 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.
The Spaniard improved to 6-1 over Monfils, whom he beat while carrying an abdominal injury at the US Open last autumn.
"I think I started playing really well the first set, it was very high intensity," said Nadal. "In the second set the match got a little crazy."
Nadal advanced in a brief 78 minutes over the 12th-seeded Frenchman, producing 16 winners and the same number of unforced errors. He also broke four times.
Almagro went through earlier over Austrian Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1.
In later contests, Roger Federer was facing a Rome rematch with Ernests Gulbis while British third seed Andy Murray was hoping for victory over Spaniard David Ferrer, who put him out in Rome this month.
On the women's side, 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.
Williams, who began this week in fourth place, will fall in behind her top-ranked sister Serena on the Monday WTA 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 either Israeli Shahar Peer or Li Na of China.
"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.
"She played well, it was a challenge for me. But I just went on auto-pilot at 4-3, it felt really good."
Williams, with 25 wins and three losses this season, said that she could not be feeling better with Roland Garros starting a week from Sunday.
"I really like clay, I like my job, my career, my life ... my dog. I'm feeling healthy right now. It really helps to go into Paris feeling good."
Czech Lucie Safarova, Paris Indoor finalist in February, reached the semis with a win over Russian 16th seed Nadia Petrova, who put out Serena Williams, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
Lucie Safarova, Czech Republic, def. Nadia Petrova (16), Russia, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
Venus Williams (4), United States, def. Samantha Stosur (8), Australia, 6-3, 6-3.
Shahar Peer, Israel, def. Li Na (13), China, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. ^Men= ^Quarterfinals=
Nicolas Almagro, Spain, def. Jurgen Melzer, Austria, 6-3, 6-1.
Rafael Nadal (2), Spain, def. Gael Monfils (12), France, 6-1, 6-3.