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Sports

Nadal sharp in win

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 03:16 PM
PARIS -

At last, Rafael Nadal sounded satisfied.

Then again, what could he possibly have complained about Wednesday? The five-time French Open champion reached the semifinals and improved his career record at Roland Garros to 43-1 with a clean-as-can-be 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) victory over the only man he's ever lost to there, two-time runner-up Robin Soderling.

"Today, I played better. Much better, in my opinion," Nadal said. "It was nothing secret, nothing magic. . . . I found a lot of solutions."

After Nadal's previous match, he chided himself for not hitting the ball with conviction and fretted that his level of tennis wasn't good enough to win the tournament a sixth time, which would tie Bjorn Borg's record for the most by a man.

Against Soderling, Nadal scrambled along the baseline to dig out and get back shots that would be winners against most anyone else. He went from defense to offense in a blink, winning 14 of the first 19 points that lasted at least 10 strokes, according to the AP stats. He made just 13 unforced errors total; Soderling made 41. Nadal broke in each of the first two games the 6-foot-4 Soderling served, six times in all.

"He played really good. It's the first match this tournament that he played well all the time," said Toni Nadal, Rafael's uncle and coach. "Well, only in the third set was I a little worried."

On Friday, the top-seeded Nadal will take on No. 4 Andy Murray, who became only the third British man in the past 70 years to reach the French Open semifinals by beating unseeded Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, 6-2. Murray's been playing with a torn tendon in his right ankle since twisting it in the third round.

The other men's semifinal is No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who is 41-0 in 2011 and has won 43 consecutive matches overall, against No. 3 Roger Federer, who has 16 Grand Slam titles.

None of the top four seeded players will participate in the women's semifinals today, when No. 5 Francesca Schiavone of Italy, the defending champion, faces No. 11 Marion Bartoli of France, and No. 6 Li Na of China meets No. 7 Maria Sharapova of Russia.

Sharapova beat No. 15 Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-0, 6-3 on Wednesday.

Li, who became the first Chinese player to reach any major final at the Australian Open in January, was a 7-5, 6-2 winner over No. 4 Victoria Azarenka.

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