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Nadal rallies to book berth in Paris Masters semifinals

Paris, Nov 6 (efe-epa).- Spain’s Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to a title that has eluded him throughout his career, rallying from a set down here Friday to defeat countryman Pablo Carreño Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 and advance to the semifinals of the Paris Masters.

The 34-year-old world No. 2 came out on the losing end of a surprising number of rallies in the first two sets of this behind-closed-doors contest at AccorArena, but he came up with some clutch play to force a decider and then kicked his game into a higher gear down the stretch.

Nadal said after his round-of-16 victory Thursday over Australia’s Jordan Thompson that he would need to step up his game in the quarterfinals, and his analysis proved to be accurate.

The 15th-ranked Carreño Busta began the match at his highest level, striking the ball with pace and depth off both his forehand and backhand sides and coming up with timely service winners.

Nadal, meanwhile, stayed on serve in the early going but was not effective enough on his returns and made some costly unforced errors in getting broken in the seventh game of the match.

Carreño Busta went on to win the first set and then created three break points in the opening game of the second set.

But the 20-time Grand Slam champion got out of trouble in that game and then gradually improved his level and started putting more pressure on his opponent’s serve.

Nadal was unable to convert a pair of break points in the eighth game, but he finally broke through four games later when he threaded the needle on a forehand down-the-line passing shot on set point.

The world No. 2 then raised his level another notch in the third set, while Carreño Busta’s game went swiftly downhill.

“I have to give him a lot of credit that he did a lot of things very well, played very aggressively,” Nadal said of Friday’s match. “I need to return better. My serve is working well, I think, so the rest of the game more or less I am playing better and better. I need to return better if I want to have chances to keep going.”

Next up for Nadal in Saturday’s semifinals will be German world No. 7 Alexander Zverev, who topped Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 7-6 (7-1) in the last quarterfinal.

Nadal this week is seeking to win the Paris Masters for the first time in eight appearances and tie Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s mark of 36 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles.

In other Paris Masters quarterfinal action on Friday, big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic edged in-form Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7) and will next square off on Saturday against fifth-ranked Russian Daniil Medvedev, who routed Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-1.

Despite his lopsided defeat, Schwartzman clinched the eighth and final spot in next week’s season-ending ATP Finals event in London when Carreño Busta lost to Nadal. EFE-EPA

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