Monte Carlo: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and fourth seed Andy Murray bagged two wins apiece on Friday to set up a mouth-watering Monte Carlo Masters semi-final.
Nadal, gunning for his fifth consecutive title in the principality, swept past Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-3 in his quarter-final while Murray battled past Russian eighth seed Nikolay Davydenko 7-6, 6-4.
Spanish claycourt king Nadal, who has won his last 25 matches in the principality, thrashed Murray 6-1, 6-2 in their previous confrontation, the final at Indian Wells last month.
Both had to contest two matches on Friday after rain wiped out most of the day's play on Thursday.
It was not the case for world No. 3 Novak Djokovic, who floored high-flying Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to book his place in the last four against 13th seed Stanislas Wawrinka.
The Swiss made light work of German qualifier Andreas Beck with a 6-2, 6-4 win. Nadal made mincemeat of Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti 6-3, 6-0 at lunchtime in a third-round match before taking on the big-serving Ljubicic around tea time.
Murray finished his third-round match against Italian qualifier Fabio Fognini, whom he beat 7-6, 6-4, and ended Davydenko's resilience under the floodlights.
Facing a two-times French Open semi-finalist in Davydenko, Murray showed great composure to take the tiebreak 7-1 before rallying from 4-1 down in the second set.
The 21-year-old Scot, who reached his first semi-final in a claycourt tournament, won on his third match point when Davydenko returned long.
"Every time I play against Nikolay he makes me run a lot, so I was prepared for that going into the match," Murray said. "I played a good tiebreak, and (in the second set) I was down 4-1 and managed to fight back. It was a good day's work."
Nadal showed signs of irritation when Ljubicic, a 7-5, 7-6 winner against Italian Simone Bolelli earlier on Friday, cancelled out his early break.
He stayed focused, however, to break again and claim the opening set, keeping the pressure on Ljubicic to wrap up the win in 73 minutes.
"I think I played less than three hours, so that's always important," said Nadal, who spent 93 minutes on centre court with Lapentti.
Although he only had one match to play, Djokovic had to battle for two hours and 18 minutes against Australian Open semi-finalist Verdasco.
The Spaniard, however, was undone by Djokovic's unerring accuracy in a gripping tussle.
"I think today was a really good test, a really good match for me. I wanted to see if I was able to do that," Djokovic said. "That's what I did. I hung in there, just waited for my chances."
More from this Section
September 2, 2015, 8:10 pm IST
September 2, 2015, 7:59 pm IST
September 2, 2015, 7:49 pm IST
September 2, 2015, 7:44 pm IST