BUENOS AIRES: Top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal reached the Argentina Open semifinals on Friday (Saturday in Manila), braving sweltering temperatures of 33 degrees to clinch a 7-6 (3), 6-2 win over Italian journeyman Paolo Lorenzi.
Nadal, the world number five, is back on his favorite clay court surface and is playing his first event since his shock opening round loss to compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open last month.
He had seen off close friend Juan Monaco of Argentina in Thursday’s first round but faced a slightly tougher test Friday when 34-year-old Lorenzi, the world 52, clawed his way back from a 4-1 first set deficit.
But 29-year-old Nadal clinched victory on his first match point after one hour and 51 minutes on court.
It was the Spaniard’s 346th win on clay as he remains on track to claim a 48th career title on the surface, which has brought him his greatest success.
Nadal will now face Austria’s world number 19 Dominic Thiem on Saturday for a place in the final.
“The conditions were really extreme and they made me very tired,” said Nadal who needed to take tablets during the match for a stomach complaint.
“So I am happy to be in the semi-finals as this is an important week for me. I thank all the fans who put up with the heat to support me.
“It’s tough for the players but also the spectators too.”
Thiem, the fifth seed, defeated Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 6-2 in his quarterfinal.
Thiem, the youngest player in the Top 20 at 22-years-old, lost to Nadal in their only previous meeting in straight sets at the 2014 French Open.
“He is a very good player and has won many tournaments in the past year on this surface,” said Nadal of Thiem.
“He is young and possesses great potential and I hope to play at a high level.”