Andy Murray gained revenge on Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas and nine-time champion Rafael Nadal cruised into the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open on Friday.
Ramos-Vinolas beat the world number one on Murray’s return from an elbow injury in the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters last week.
He threatened to repeat that upset when he served for the match in the third set, but Murray battled back to edge out the world number 19 by 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) after three hours on court.
“It was obviously a very tough match,” said Murray, who got his wish for match practice ahead of next month’s French Open after taking a late wildcard to enter the draw in the Catalan capital.
“It was kind of the opposite of the match we had last week where probably today he deserved to win. He created a lot more chances, he served for the match and couldn’t quite get it.
“Last week I had 4-0 (in the third set), I felt like I had all of the chances. Sometimes on clay matches happen this way, so very happy to get through because it was very tough.”
Ramos-Vinolas is in the form of his life having risen to a career-high ranking after reaching the final in Monte Carlo.
He dominated the opening stages, taking five straight games after Murray started with a comfortable hold.
Murray edged the second with the only break in the 10th game.
Breaks were exchanged early in the decider, whilst Ramos-Vinolas also had to take an injury timeout after twisting his ankle.
Ramos-Vinolas had the chance to serve it out when he broke again for 5-4, but nerves seemed to get the better of him as three errors handed Murray the break back.
Murray raced out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak and saw it out as Ramos-Vinolas’s efforts over the past two weeks finally began to take their toll.
The Wimbledon champion faces Dominic Thiem in Saturday’s semis after the Austrian ended Japanese lucky loser Yuichi Sugita’s unlikely run to the quarters 6-1, 6-2.
Nadal also enjoyed a comfortable afternoon as his quest for a 10th Barcelona title continued unhindered with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 win over Korean qualifier Hyeon Chung.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion had to battle back from a break down in the first set to take it on a tiebreak before romping through the second.
“I gave him a bit too much respect,” said Nadal.
“At the start he was dominating, but I think once I broke back to 3-3 the match was more in my hands.”
Nadal will be a strong favourite to reach the final when he takes on Russia’s Karen Khachanov or Argentine Horacio Zeballos in the last four.