Nadal clinches 23rd straight win on clay, free pass into semis
Rafael Nadal eased past Belgium's Christophe Rochus 6-2, 6-0 at the Barcelona Open to claim his 23rd consecutive claycourt win before being handed a free pass into the semi-finals.sports Updated: Apr 24, 2009 00:34 IST
Rafael Nadal eased past Belgium's Christophe Rochus 6-2, 6-0 at the Barcelona Open on Thursday to claim his 23rd consecutive claycourt win before being handed a free pass into the semi-finals.
The Spanish world number one was due to take on David Nalbandian in Friday's quarter-finals, but the muscular Argentine was forced to withdraw with a right hip injury.
The top-seeded Nadal had no trouble with the 61st-ranked Rochus, whom he beat in the Australian Open first round in January on his way to the title.
Nadal, bidding for a fifth straight trophy at his home Real club in the Catalan capital, to match the fifth on the trot lifted last weekend in Monte Carlo, advanced in style on the regional St Jordi holiday, celebrated by red roses given by men to women and books the other way around.
The world number one was not in a giving mood as he blasted Rochus off the court in 55 minutes after the Belgian had upset 13th seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the previous round.
Thursday's victory was also the 23rd in Barcelona for Nadal, who lost his lone match at the venue against Alex Corretja in 2003 as a 16-year-old.
The top seed improved to 140-4 on clay since 2005 and stands 23-1 in clay court finals.
Fellow Spaniards David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo also went through.
Fourth seed Ferrer defeated Italian Potito Starace 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in what he called "a very physical match" while 2004 champion Robredo overhauled Russian Igor Andreev 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Czech Radek Stepanek upset in-form Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 with the Swiss eighth seed falling to 12-7 for the season after taking six weeks off after the Australian Open to work on strength and fitness.
Wawrinka's hopes of building on the clay form which took him to the semi-finals in Monte Carlo last week, where he was ousted by Novak Djokovic, came undone in the final set.
The loss to 19th-ranked Stepanek has also thrown a spanner into Wawrinka's preparations for next week's Rome Masters where he was runner-up in 2008.
Stepanek now owns a 3-0 record in the series with Wawrinka, including a Barcelona win in 2005 and 2007 Davis Cup success.