A resurgent Rafael Nadal remained on course to match Guillermo Vilas’ record of 49 clay-court titles as he reached the last four at the Barcelona Open with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) win over Fabio Fognini on Friday.
Fognini was a thorn in his side last year, winning three of their five meetings, including in Barcelona and at the US Open.
But Nadal, 29, who won his first tournament of the year in Monte Carlo last week, raced into a 4-0 lead in the first set before taking it 6-2 with a third break of the Italian’s serve.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion took an early 2-0 advantage in the second, but Fognini fought back to reel off four straight games and move a break in front.
Nadal broke back with Fognini serving for the set at 5-4 and the Italian had to save three match points to force a tie-break in his next service game.
However, Nadal dominated the breaker 7-1 to seal victory in just under two hours and book a semifinal date with German Philipp Kohlschreiber after he downed Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 6-1.
Earlier, defending champion Kei Nishikori extended his winning streak in Barcelona to 13 matches as he overcame a gritty Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-5, 6-0.
The 26-year-old Japanese had to save four set points when serving at 5-4 down in the first set, but held on before romping through the second set.
He next faces Frenchman Benoit Paire in Saturday’s semis after the sixth seed beat Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.