Rafael Nadal cruised into the French Open semi-finals on Wednesday with a routine 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 win over Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
The win brought the Spaniard’s match record at Roland Garros to a remarkable 57-1 as he seeks to become the first player in history to win the same Grand Slam title eight times.
But to get to Sunday’s final, he will have to defeat top seed and great rival Novak Djokovic, who won their last encounter on clay in Monte Carlo in April.
Djokovic had a slightly harder time of it against German veteran Tommy Haas, advancing on a 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) 7-5 scoreline.
I think today I played my best match of this year at the tournament. I was very happy with the conditions on a court that is so emotional for me
“I think today I played my best match of this year at the tournament. I was very happy with the conditions on a court that is so emotional for me,” said Nadal
“Stan was a little bit tired after his incredible match against Richard (Gasquet) which I thought was the best match of the tournament so far.”
The odds were firmly stacked against Wawrinka going into what was his first French Open quarter-final match in nine campaigns at Roland Garros.
He had lost all nine previous matchups against Nadal, failing to win a single set, and had needed treatment for a leg strain during his five-set marathon win over Gasquet in the fourth round when he came back from two sets down.
The odds looked spot on in the first set as Nadal broke the Swiss player’s serve in the opening game and then again in the fifth to take the first set 6-2.
Nadal then jumped out into a 3-1 lead with another break early in the second set before Wawrinka had a glimmer of hope with a break back to get to 3-3.
But that was as far as it got for the ninth seed as Nadal simply added extra muscle to his pounding groundstrokes, leaving Wawrinka reeling under their weight and precision.
Nadal ran off three quick games in a row to take a two sets to love lead and it was clear that Wawrinka’s chances of another major comeback were next to impossible.
To make matters even worse, Wawrinka needed further treatment to his strained thigh even before the third set could get underway.
He did have a break point to savour as the third set got underway, but a thumping Nadal first serve erased that and then Wawrinka was broken again in the next game.
Nadal was now in full flow and Wawrinka’s shoulders started to slump as he stumbled on towards inevitable defeat.
A disappointed centre court crowd tried to instil some belief into the Swiss player, but he was beyond help as Nadal ran off the four games he needed to book his place in the semi-finals.
World number one Djokovic reached his 12th consecutive Grand Slam semi-final when he defeated gutsy German Haas. Top seed Djokovic needs a Roland Garros title to become just the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam.
“Tommy is a very dangerous opponent with lots of quality, plenty of experience and is very aggressive,” said Djokovic.
He will go into Friday’s semi-final having defeated Nadal in the final of Monte Carlo on clay in April.
“I will have to raise my game for the next match. Nadal is in great form but the win in Monte Carlo has given me great confidence. I will be positive.”
It was a match too far for the 35-year-old Haas who was bidding to become the oldest semi-finalist at a major since Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open and second oldest in Paris.
Djokovic has vowed to win the tournament in honour of his childhood coach, Jelena Gencic, who passed away at the weekend, and he raced away in the first set.