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The world no.2 and 6-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, very much unlike his peers, made quick work of his quarter-final opponent 12th seed Nicolas Almagro to advance to the final four at Roland Garros. The score was a reasonably comfortable 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the defending champion's favour as he triumphed in this all-Spanish affair. The First set was a close contest with both players refusing to give any ground, ultimately, requiring a tie-break to determine the winner. Nadal upped the ante at the right juncture, winning the breaker 7-4. With the loss of the first set still weighing heavily at the back of his mind, Almagro started going for more and more on his shots resulting in a greater number of unforced errors and in the end surrendered the second set 6-2. The beginning of the 3rd set, saw a regrouped and rejuvenated Almagro, who started to take the game to the 'King of Clay'. However, Nadal's ability to raise his level of play proved to be the thin line of difference between the two players with the world no.2 emerging as the only straight sets winner in the men's quarter-finals this year.
The first set proved to be a high quality affair as both player came out all guns blazing with assuming their appropriate roles - Nadal was at his defensive best while his fellow Spaniard, likewise, going for it right from the get go. Break points though were as rare as Americans in French Open quarter-finals, however, in the 11th game Almagro got into a spot of bother as he went down a break point thanks to some subpar play.
He did rescue the situation with the help of some brave and aggressive tennis and went on to hold on to his serve. Meanwhile, Nadal had no such difficulties in the next game, holding serve to love to force his first tie break of the 2012 French Open. The tie breaker, in contrast to the set so far, saw a series of mini-breaks and momentum shifts. It was the world no.2 who got the initial advantage jumping to a 5-1 lead with the help of some heavy topspin-laden forehands and some accurate serving. Almagro, meanwhile, was not to be denied as he took the next 3 points, thereby, reducing the deficit to 4-5. However, Nadal was in no mood for any more drama winning the next two points, finishing off proceeding with the help of an unreturnable serve to draw first blood.
The second set saw a significant drop in performance from the 12th seeded Spaniard, which coupled with his opponent maintaining his level of play resulted in a slightly lopsided score of 6-2. It seemed like Almagro was demoralized by the fact that after having played an hour of almost flawless tennis he had nothing to show for it. Nicholas started to pull the trigger at inopportune times in the rallies resulting in numerous errors. Meanwhile, Nadal kept up his level of play grabbing breaks of serves in the 4th and 8th games of the set.
Set 3 started off in a similar vein as the opening set 1 as rain, which interrupted play for a couple of minutes, helped Almagro to regroup and regain his composure. Almagro got an early opportunity to go up a break in the 5th game, however, Nadal, as always, managed to up the ante when it really mattered with some power-packed heavy hitting. The game saw another break point come and go as Nadal managed to finally hold serve to level the scores at 3-3.
Another opportunity to break knocked on Almagro's door in the 7th game but the world no.2, managed to see it off and hold service with the help of some unparalleled resilience and tenacity. Roles suddenly reversed in the 8th game of the set as this time it was Nadal who went up a break point. Though, the 12th seeded Spaniard was able to erase the first, he got broken on the second opportunity thanks to an amazing forehand cross-court winner from the world no.2. In the very next game, Nadal served out the match, finishing off proceedings in style with an ace.
While Almagro will no doubt be disappointed that he was unable to take advantage of various opportunities that he was presented with, especially in the first and third sets the Nadal motorcade continues to march towards an unprecedented 7th French Open title. His next obstacle in the semifinals will be another spaniard in David Ferrer, who beat 4th seed Andy Murray in a rain interrupted match, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2.
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