Champion Rafa Nadal cut loose after a shaky French Open start to batter Robin Soderling 6-4 6-1 7-6 and Andy Murray again tried to tie himself in knots before easily sealing his semi-final spot on Wednesday, according to Eurosport.
The first and fourth seeds will meet in a stellar last four in which rampant second seed Novak Djokovic and 16-times grand slam champion Roger Federer will also lock horns on Friday.
“I am very happy, to play against Robin is always difficult,” Nadal said courtside. “I played better than I have on other days. I played a very good level today and Robin maybe made more mistakes than usual.”
Hitting winners from the baseline for fun, Nadal was right back at home on the Philippe Chatrier court he has made his own with Spanish flags and fans holding up banners asking for a kiss adding to the party mood.
The crowd were so boisterous that the umpire had to repeatedly calm down their Mexican waves and chants while Soderling just tried to focus on getting a ball in.
Murray, who had battled an ankle injury and Viktor Troicki for five sets over two days in round four, had less of a stroll as he found himself 4-1 down in the first set against Juan Ignacio Chela but the battling Briton prevailed 7-6 7-5 6-2.
The world number four managed to throw away a 5-2 lead in the second but recovered to outfox the unseeded Argentine, winning with a drop shot as he reached his first French semi.
In contrast, all four top seeds in the women’s game are out after Victoria Azarenka joined the list of flops by losing 7-5 6-2 to Li Na and Russian Maria Sharapova beat Andrea Petkovic 6-0 6-3 in their quarter-final. Sharapova and Li have meet in a semi-final clash of styles on Thursday (after the closing of this edition) after Russian elegance and Chinese determination powered them though. Champion Francesca Schiavone and France’s Marion Bartoli clash in the other semi. Sharapova, the most experienced woman left in the draw with a title at each of the other three grand slams, last won a major in 2008 and has been hampered by injuries and illness since.
Now the Russian, who has wowed the galleries with the same shade of fashionable dress each match and even came on court with a trendy handbag, is taking the tournament even more seriously with her first French Open title in sight.
The first Chinese to make it this far at Roland Garros, Li never gives up on any point and the Australian Open runner-up also has the backing of millions of fans back home.