Nadal Cruises, Raonic Routs Murray in Barcelona
Rafael Nadal served up back-to-back finishing aces on Friday as the Spaniard's clay court juggernaut headed closer to a seventh title at the Barcelona Open with a 6-2, 6-2 thrashing of Janko Tipsarevic.
Nadal's quarterfinal win in 83 minutes, with five breaks of serve, helped the French Open champion take his record here to 33-1, with 32 straight wins.
Top seed Nadal will play compatriot Fernando Verdasco, the 2010 winner when Nadal did not compete due to injury, after Kei Nishikori of Japan was forced to retire from their quarterfinal with a side-strain in the first set.
"Verdasco is playing well so it will be a difficult match," said Nadal, who said he played "at my best level," against Tipsarevic.
"I must try to be aggressive to win. You cannot expect easy wins, but this result is pretty good against Janko."
Canadian Milos Raonic handed second seed Andy Murray a claycourt humiliation as the big-hitting youngster hammered the Scot 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to reach the semifinals.
Raonic, ranked 25th, will be playing in his second career clay semifinal on Saturday against third seed David Ferrer who reached the last four for a sixth consecutive year by beating compatriot Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (9/7), 6-3.
Murray was to have been Raonic's opponent in Miami last month, but the Canadian had to withdraw injured before that hard court showdown.
With the scene shifted to clay, the momentum went with the Canadian as he took the biggest scalp of his fast-rising career in just under one and three-quarter hours at the Real Club de Tenis.
"It was important to play a few matches on clay, I had some good tennis from time to time," said Murray.
"It's most important to get ready for the upcoming Masters 1000s (Madrid from May 7 and Rome to follow).
Murray, a Monte Carlo quarter-finalist who admitted that he's had a difficult time trying to make the change from hard court to clay, praised Raonic's big game.
"Milos has always played well on hard court - now he's a threat on all surfaces," he said.
"He's got a huge serve, you must find ways to neutralize it. If you manage that, you have options."
Raonic, winner of two titles this season on indoor hard court, where his huge game is always a threat, showed that he's getting comfortable on the dirt as he fired 14 aces in victory.
His only other last-four spot on clay came a year ago in Estoril, when he lost to Verdasco.
Raonic, who lost in the Monte Carlo first round, backed up his defeat of Spanish clay specialist Nicolas Almagro in the third round.
"It's great to beat a top 10 player, it gives me great confidence," said Raonic.
"I was very disappointed with my result in Monte Carlo. Here I feel like I've really made a breakthrough by reaching the semis."
The Canadian ended Murray's best run in Barcelona, where he has claimed only a single match win in three previous appearances.
Raonic won the first set thanks to one break of serve and stayed steady well into the second.
The Canadian broke for a 4-3 lead but was unable to close out victory immediately as Murray got the break back in the 10th game for five-apiece.
As the set went to a tiebreaker, Raonic's huge serve came to bear, with the 11th-seeded Canadian taking a 3-0 lead. He earned five match points, with Murray saving two before sending a weak backhand into the net.
Raonic converted on two of five break points while Murray missed on three of his break chances.
Murray had dropped just eight games in his first two matches in Barcelona, where he trained as a teenager and where Raonic has a base to train with Spanish coach Galo Blanco.