Barcelona, Apr 23 (EFE).- Spain’s Rafael Nadal struggled at times once again Friday at the Barcelona Open, but he still rolled to a relatively comfortable 6-1, 6-4 victory over Cameron Norrie to reach his first semifinal of the 2021 season.
The 11-time champion raced through the first set and a half on the main clay court at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, although the lopsided score was primarily due to the British player’s unforced errors and double faults on key points.
Even so, the world No. 3 dictated play with solid, deep ball-striking from the baseline and brought the fans to their feet with a highlight-reel forehand return into the corner to break his opponent’s serve for a 2-1 lead in the second set.
Norrie came alive to earn his first service break and level the second set at 4-4, but the quarterfinal match slipped away from him when he dropped serve at love in the following game.
Despite the win, the 34-year-old Nadal said he needs to raise his level in Saturday’s semifinals.
“I played well at the beginning, especially in the first set. I think I did a lot of things well. Then I stopped myself a little bit. That’s something that cannot happen, especially tomorrow,” the Spaniard was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour’s website.
“I need to hold the level of intensity from the first set (when) I was able to change direction with my forehand and have most of the points under control. Then the situation was a little bit different, so that’s why I suffered later.”
Nadal, who needed to go the distance to defeat Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka and Japan’s Kei Nishikori in his first two matches this week, will next take on countryman Pablo Carreño Busta, who rallied from a 5-2 deficit (and a two-service-break hole) in the decider to defeat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
The Spanish all-time great, who was stunned by Russia’s Andrey Rublev in last week’s Monte-Carlo Masters, is seeking his first title since adding a 13th Roland Garros crown to his already record haul.
Saturday’s other semifinal will pit red-hot Greek world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas (a 6-3, 6-3 winner Friday over Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime) against fast-rising Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, who showed more signs of his precocious talent by upsetting Rublev 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) in the quarterfinals.
The Barcelona Open is a tune-up event for tennis’ most prestigious clay-court tournament, the French Open, where Nadal will have the chance to capture a record 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title.
Roland Garros was delayed by a week due to coronavirus concerns and will be held from May 30 to June 13.