Nadal beats Nieminen

Rafael Nadal won his 45th straight match on clay Friday, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Jarkko Nieminen to enter Open Seat Godo semifinals.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:40 IST
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Rafael Nadal won his 45th straight match on clay Friday, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Jarkko Nieminen that sent the top-seeded Spaniard into the Open Seat Godo semifinals. Guillermo Vilas holds the Open era record on clay with 53 consecutive wins in 1977. Bjorn Borg is second with 46 straight in 1979. "Borg's total motivates me," said Nadal, the 19-year-old defending champion. "It thrills me to think it's there, but we'll have to see what happens." On Saturday, Nadal will meet countryman Nicolas Almagro, who ousted 2001 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-3. Tommy Robredo, the 2004 champ, will play Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the other semifinal. Nieminen began well, varying the pace of his shots and choosing his angles to break the flow of Nadal's game. But after dropping the first set, Nadal broke the Finn twice in each of the next two sets. "I didn't want to lose this match for anything in the world," Nadal said. "I think I was playing the ball at my best." Tough match Almagro has won nine straight matches, including his debut title in Valencia two weeks ago. He's beaten three seeded players in Barcelona and hasn't dropped a set. But Almagro lost his only match with Nadal two years ago in Palermo, Sicily. "I'll be playing one of the best clay-court players in the world," Almagro said. "With Almagro, boy, that'll be a tough match," Nadal said. "He's playing at a very high level right now and he hits the ball hard." Robredo, seeded sixth, beat two opponents to reach the semis. He defeated fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in a rain-delayed, third-round match. He then topped fourth-seeded Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2. Wawrinka advanced by beating 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. "When I play Karlovic it is very difficult because he has such a good serve," Wawrinka said. "All I could do was hang onto my game as long as possible and try to wear him down." Robredo is confident after reaching the quarterfinals at last week's Monte Carlo Masters. (AP)