Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal will meet again in the semifinals of the Madrid Open on Saturday, a rematch of last year’s final won by the British player.
The winner will face either Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori, who also won on Friday.
The second-ranked Murray defeated Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2 to make it to the semis for the second consecutive Masters tournament on clay, while Nadal had to fight hard to get past Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.
Top-ranked Djokovic beat Milos Raonic 6-3, 6-4 to reach his fifth final of the year, and sixth-ranked Kei Nishikori edged Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (6), 7-6 (1), 6-3 in a thriller that lasted 2 1/2 hours.
Djokovic got past the 10th-ranked Raonic to win his 31st match of the year in a rematch of the final in Indian Wells, where Djokovic also won. The Serb has won 13 straight matches against top-10 players, winning 29 of 30 sets during that run.
Coming off a final loss to Nadal in Barcelona, Nishikori overcame 18 aces by Kyrgios, getting his lone break to go up 3-1 in the decisive set.
Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, celebrating her 27th birthday, reached the women’s final by beating American qualifier Louisa Chirico 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour. She will play Simona Halep, who defeated Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-0 in the other semifinal. Halep, the 2014 finalist in Madrid, was the only seeded player to make it to the semis.
Murray had to play under a closed roof at the “Magic Box” center court because of rain.
“They were different conditions, playing under the roof, and I’ve adjusted to them well,” said Murray, who never faced a break point. “That was the most pleasant thing for me, because I’ve only played maybe three or four indoor clay matches in my life. Not easy conditions, against a tough opponent, and I played well.”
The roof was open when Nadal started, but it had to be closed in the second set. The interval didn’t help the Spaniard, who cruised in the first set but saw the 35th-ranked Portuguese rally back in the second.
Seeking his third title of the season, as many as he won in 2015, Nadal picked up the pace again in the final set to close out the match in just over two hours.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo was among those watching Nadal play.
Nadal has won four of the last five matches against Murray.
“This year is completely different to the previous years,” Nadal said. “I have different feelings. Murray played really well today and has been during the whole week. It’s going to be a very tough match. I have to give my best if I want to have options. I cannot think of last year. Of course I hope that I don’t repeat what happened last year.”
Murray defeated Nadal in straight sets in Madrid in 2015 to win his first Masters title on clay, but Murray lost to Nadal in the Monte Carlo semifinals last month.
“He’s definitely playing better, for sure, but I also think that I’m playing better than I was at this time last year,” Murray said. “You have to keep improving. There are things in my game that are much better than at this stage last year. I need to learn from the match that I played against him and hopefully have a good performance tomorrow.”
Murray, who has won six of his last seven matches on clay, needs to win the title this weekend to avoid being overtaken by Roger Federer in the rankings.