MADRID: Roger Federer beat ninth-seeded Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina, 6-3, 6-3, on Friday to reach the Madrid Masters semifinals, where he will face Andy Murray in a rematch of the U.S. Open final.
Rafael Nadal downed Spanish countryman Feliciano Lopez, 6-4, 6-4. The world No. 1 was to play on Saturday either Gilles Simon of France or Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, who were playing a late match Friday.
Nadal and Federer have each won Madrid without playing the other. They have featured in four finals this year, with Nadal sweeping them all, including the French Open and Wimbledon.
Nadal, who had complained of a right leg injury at the start of the week, said he suffered shoulder pain during the day and received treatment until just before playing Lopez.
"Right up to the last minute the doctors have been treating me for shoulder pain, I spent two hours with them before coming out on court," Nadal said.
Despite that concern, he was wary of Lopez, who ousted top-10 players David Ferrer and Stanislas Wawrinka. But he made the only break in the fifth game of the first set and ninth game of the second, helped by Lopez's 33 unforced errors.
"This surface favored Feliciano, he likes to play here and at this altitude," said Nadal. "So I think I've played a very serious match."
The second-seeded Federer used an effective slice serve on the fast indoor surface and was never broken.
"The slice goes nicely on this court. I felt good using it to counter Juan Martin's height," Federer said.
The 20-year-old Del Potro served 12 aces, 11 in the first set, but couldn't cause much trouble for Federer.
"He started serving great, many aces," the Swiss player said. "That's what makes him the good player he is. I had the ability to stay calm and use my slice well here in Madrid where conditions are very quick."
Federer was helped by Del Potro's four double-faults.
"Roger generates pressure just by being in front of you," the Argentine said. "I double-faulted on my serve in each set to lose the match. Roger gave nothing away and I wasn't able to even take a set off him.
"He broke my rhythm all the time and took full advantage of his break points, which I wasn't able to do. That's the difference."
Federer, who missed the Stockholm Open last week due to fatigue, said he felt happy with his physical condition.
"I don't know what would have happened if I'd gone to Stockholm, but I'm playing well here," he said.
Federer's semifinal opponent will be the fourth-seeded Murray, who beat Gaël Monfils of France, 6-2, 6-2.
Federer beat Murray in the U.S. Open final, 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.
"I'll have to come with a proper game plan," Federer said. "He played well against Monfils, so I'll have my hands full with him."
Monfils broke Murray in the opening game, but Murray broke back immediately. Murray broke two more times to take the set. The second set followed the same pattern.
"He almost enjoys running too much and almost likes you to dictate play," Murray said of his 22-year-old opponent. "Once he gets used to big matches we're going to be seeing a lot more of him."
Venus Williams remained on course for a strong end to an inconsistent season when the American beat Italy's Francesca Schiavone, 6-3, 6-3, to reach the Zurich Open semifinals on Friday, Reuters reported.
Third-seeded Williams will face Serbian second seed Ana Ivanovic on Saturday after the world number four saw off Czech qualifier Petra Kvitova 6-1 6-4.
Williams has won just one title this season - albeit at Wimbledon - and is still looking to gain enough points this week to join younger sister Serena at the season-ending WTA Championships.
Following the second round exits of her nearest rivals for a place, Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska, the former world number one took another big step towards the Doha finale by maintaining her perfect record against the world number 23.
The opening set was a messy affair with Williams eventually coming out on top of a five-game run in which both women failed to hold serve.
The American finally found her rhythm when it counted, serving out to love to end the sequence and seal the set.
In the second set Williams was much more convincing, varying her play nicely to break her opponent twice and take a 4-1 lead.
Schiavone, who had lost all four previous encounters with Williams, briefly threatened to fight back after grabbing a break to make the score 4-2 but slipped up again while serving to stay in the match at 5-3 down.
"There were definitely some back and forth games today but I think overall I played more consistently than in the last rounds," Williams said.
"My main goal was just to keep my own errors down and that always makes it harder for my opponents.
"I'm not counting the points (for Doha). I will just do my best this week and that's it."
Ivanovic owed a good deal of her success on Friday to some terrible serving on the part of her teenage opponent.
Kvitova, ranked 57th in the world, double faulted five times in her second service game to hand the Serb a 3-1 lead.
That formed part of an eight-game winning streak that saw Ivanovic romp through the first set and go 3-0 up in the second.
The French Open winner then suffered some wobbles of her own, inexplicably dropping her next three service games.
Kvitova was unable to capitalise however, twice more failing to hold her own serve in a scrappy end to the match.
Saturday's other semifinal will involve two unseeded players with Italy's Flavia Pennetta taking on Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues.
Pennetta, who beat world number one Jelena Jankovic in the second round, saw off Slovenia's Katarina Srebotnik 7-5 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Garrigues benefited from a shoulder injury sustained by her Belarussian opponent Victoria Azarenka who won the first set 6-4 but retired after losing the second 6-3.