Seven-time winner Rafael Nadal won back-to-back matches to advance to the semifinals of the Barcelona Open on Friday. 

After rain forced several third-round matches to be pushed back, Nadal started the day by beating Benoit Paire of France 7-6 (2), 6-2. The fifth-ranked Spaniard then defeated Albert Ramos 6-3, 6-0 after his overmatched opponent had downed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (4) earlier.

"I played much better in the second match than in the morning," Nadal said after finishing off Ramos.

"Above all in the second set, when Albert made more mistakes than usual."

"I got through a complicated day fine"

Rafael Nadal

Nadal has won 37 straight matches on the red clay at Real Club de Tenis and is on course to make his sixth straight final this year after returning from a long injury layoff.

He will face either Milos Raonic or Tommy Robredo on Saturday.

Nadal responded well to the test of playing two matches in the same day as he continues to work his way back to full form since he returned in February from a nagging case of tendinitis in his left knee that had sidelined him for more than half a year.

The 26-year-old former No. 1 has impressed since coming back, but his loss to Novak Djokovic last weekend that ended his eight-year winning run at Monte Carlo awakened questions of whether he's ready to compete for the much more gruelling French Open next month. Nadal has won at Roland Garros a record seven times.

"I got through a complicated day fine,'' Nadal said.

Earlier, Robredo fought back from a set down to eliminate sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the third round.

The unseeded Robredo hit a winner that clipped the baseline to break Berdych's serve for the fourth time on match point.
Raonic, for his part, defeated Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Fourth-seeded Nicolas Almagro beat Juan Monaco 6-3, 7-5 to make his third semifinal in the Catalan capital after he broke the Argentine's serve late before serving out the second set.

Almagro will play Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the semifinals after the German advanced two rounds despite playing just six games on Friday. 

"I'm excited to have a shot at making my first final here in Barcelona, but it won't be easy," Almagro said.

"Kohlschreiber has a great return."

Source: AP