Rafa Nadal cleared the latest hurdle on his quest for a third claycourt title in under a month when he overpowered Frenchman Michael Llodra 6-2 6-2 on Friday to reach the Madrid Masters semi-finals.
The Spaniard was joined in the last four by unseeded Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, who caused another upset following Thursday's third-round victory over fourth seed Andy Murray when he knocked out Czech Tomas Berdych 7-6 6-3.
Bellucci, a stylish left-hander whose previous best at a Masters event was a fourth-round berth in Miami in 2010, will play second seed Novak Djokovic or sixth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer for a place in Sunday's final.
He told a news conference his success against Briton Murray, the biggest win of his career, had given him a confidence boost and he felt ready to take on anyone.
"I was losing some matches and wasn't playing very well but yesterday I played my best tennis and today I had a lot of confidence on the court," the 23-year-old world number 36 told a news conference after beating the seventh seed.
"I have got even more confidence for tomorrow's match," he added. "I've got to face the match shot after shot and ball after ball so if I continue down this path I think I'm going to do well. I think I can beat any player."
Nadal, defending champion at the Magic Box arena in the Spanish capital, recorded back-to-back titles on his beloved clay at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open in April, beating Davis Cup team mate Ferrer in both finals.
The 24-year-old Spaniard's win against the unseeded Llodra was his 36th consecutive victory on the red dirt since falling to Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the 2009 French Open.
He reclaimed the title at Roland Garros last year and could face Soderling in the last four in Madrid if the Swede beats Roger Federer later on Friday.
Nadal moved into the last eight on Thursday without hitting a shot after resurgent former world number four Juan Martin Del Potro withdrew from the tournament due to a hip injury.
"It's not that I need minutes on the court so it didn't affect me at all," Nadal said. "I just wish a swift recovery to Del Potro."
Serb Djokovic has won 31 consecutive matches going back to December's Davis Cup final and equalled the third-best start to
the season when he secured his 29th victory of the year by beating Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Thursday.