MONTE CARLO, Principality of Monaco: Andy Murray will play for a place in his first Monte Carlo Masters finals on Saturday (Sun-day in Manila) when he takes on resurgent clay king Rafael Nadal.
The Scotsman will put his tennis to the test on the dirt against Nadal, after crushing an under-done Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 on Friday in their quarterfinals.
Fifth seed Nadal, who has struggled for form in the last 18 months, looked back to his best as he beat French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brought the injury-comeback week for Roger Federer to a screeching halt as the eighth seed rallied past the Swiss 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Tsonga will face a semi-final against colorful 13th-seeded compatriot Gael Monfils, who beat Marcel Granollers 6-2, 6-4.
Federer, out for more than two months after a knee operation, was unable to overcome Tsonga after easing through his first two matches of the week.
The Swiss was not pleased in defeat, but said that the knee, which underwent surgery in early February, had so far held up well as he returned from a two-and-a-half-month absence.
“It was a good match. It was nice to play an intense match. I’m happy how the body reacted. So many good things this week. It’s all positive for me.
“I need to spend more hours on the court. It’s better than other beginnings of the clay-court season. It’s good after an injury.”
Nadal, winner of eight straight Monte Carlo titles from 2005-2012, holds the edge over the second-seeded Murray, having beaten him in the 2009 and 2011 semifinals.
“Every day is a different story,” Nadal said. “The last three games of the first set was the only moment Stan didn’t play well. Obviously he played with too many mistakes.
“But the beginning of the match and the second set was a good match. Both of us played good points. He had more mistakes than me.”
Nadal raced to victory in 77 minutes against the 2014 winner.
The disappointed fourth seed ended with 29 unforced errors while dropping serve four times.
“It was not a good day, I rushed at the beginning and I wasn’t able to put my game into place,” Wawrinka said. “I really need to work on two or three things that I want to improve.”
Murray in command
The match with Murray will be a re-run of the Madrid final from last May, when the Briton shocked the 14-time major champion.
“Andy played a great match today, I need to be ready to play the way I am playing the last two matches. If I am able to do it, I hope to have my chances,” Nadal said.
“I lost a lot of matches before the final last year. Was not a low point. Was a good tournament for me last year in Madrid. I was able to play at a very good level for some matches.
“I’m going to try to my best to play the right level.”
Murray was always in command against Raonic, who has been suffering with the return of a right leg injury which troubled him at the Australian Open two months ago.
Raonic, playing a third consecutive Monte Carlo quarterfinals, was never in the match, failing to find a single ace in his 66-minute defeat.
Murray said that while his win might not have been pretty, it still gave him confidence after struggling through his first two contests this week.
“I’ve played a lot of tennis, though it has all not been of the highest quality,” said the 28-year-old.
“I’ve been able to learn from my previous matches. Today I served one of my best matches. I’m looking forward to the semi-finals.”
Murray’s win improved his head-to-head record against Raonic to 5-3 as he backed up a semi-final win over the Canadian in Melbourne.