Nadal downs Berdych in Rome
Rafael Nadal (Gallo Images)
Rome - Second seed Rafael Nadal got the better of Tomas Berdych on Friday, grinding out a 6-4, 7-5 win to seal his place in the semi-finals of a Rome Masters event which he has won five times before.
The king of clay will face off in the final four against compatriot and sixth seed David Ferrer, who beat French 15th seed Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Nadal and Ferrer went toe-to-toe less than three weeks ago, with Nadal winning the final to take his seventh trophy on home clay in Barcelona.
Nadal showed he has regained his blistering form after a dissatisfying third-round loss a week ago on blue clay in Madrid, beating Madrid finalist Berdych for the 11th time in succession in a struggle lasting just over two hours.
He produced 34 winners and just ten unforced errors in a superlative display, while Berdych went for broke throughout, posting 28 winners and 24 unforced errors and losing serve three times.
The world number three has now won all but two of his 36 matches at the Foro Italico and has emerged victorious in all three clay meetings with a player he also beat in the 2010 Wimbledon final.
Meanwhile, Ferrer needed an hour and three-quarters before putting out Gasquet, who played the Estoril final on clay earlier this month.
The gutsy Spaniard, who is still seeking his first title this season, is through to the quarter-finals in Rome for the first time.