VINA DEL MAR: Rafael Nadal, playing his first event after a seven-month injury layoff, advanced to the semi-finals of the $410,200 Vina del Mar ATP claycourt tournament with a straight-sets win on Friday.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion from Spain ousted seventh-seeded countryman Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 6-4.
Top seed Nadal will face French third seed Jeremy Chardy — who cruised past sixth seed Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-2, 6-3 — for a place in the final.
Until this week, Nadal had not played since a shock second-round exit from Wimbledon in June. A torn tendon and inflammation in his left knee kept the former world number one out of the London Olympics and the 2012 US Open, and a virus delayed his return.
“Today, I had more confidence than the other days,” said Nadal, who also entered doubles here in order to gain more match experience.”
Nadal broke Gimeno-Traver’s first service game of the match for a 2-0 lead and again in the sixth game, and held on to claim the first set after 33 minutes. In the second set, Nadal broke in the ninth game and then fought off four break points, the only ones he faced in the match, before holding serve in the final game to advance after 84 minutes.
Third-seeded Richard Gasquet of France reached his second semi-final of the season after beating countryman Julien Benneteau 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 at the Open Sud de France on Friday.
Gasquet will take on Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, who advanced to the last four with a scrappy 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2) win against Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, with both players dropping serve three times.