Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal remains on title course

Rafael Nadal reached his fifth semi-final from six trips to Caja Magica in 2014

by Jovica Ilic
Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal remains on title course

In the absence of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal was a player to beat at the 2014 Madrid Masters. The defending champion experienced quarter-final losses in Monte Carlo and Rome and was ready to bounce back in front of the home fans in Caja Magica.

Nadal made an impressive start against Juan Monaco and Jarrko Nieminen. The Spaniard dropped six games in two encounters to gain a boost ahead of more challenging rivals. Rafa met Tomas Berdych in the quarter-final and ousted the 2012 finalist 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 28 minutes.

Thus, Nadal advanced into his fifth semi-final from six trips to Caja Magica. It was Rafa's 18th victory over Tomas in 21 encounters and the 17th in a row! The home star dominated on serve and did more than enough on the return to seal the deal in straight sets and remain on the title course.

Rafael Nadal defeated Tomas Berdych in the 2014 Madrid Open quarter-final.

Nadal had 24 winners and 14 unforced errors. He built the advantage in the shortest and more extended rallies and controlled the pace. The Spaniard fended off the only break chance and kept the pressure on the other side.

The Czech could not follow that pace, suffering three breaks that propelled Nadal into the last four. Rafa repelled a break point in the encounter's second game and overcame deuce at 2-3 to stay on the positive side. Berdych served well so far, and that all changed in the seventh game when Rafa landed a return winner to grab a break and move 4-3 in front.

The defending champion cemented it with four winners on his serve in game eight and closed the opener with a perfect forehand crosscourt winner at 5-4 after 45 minutes. The Spaniard landed an incredible forehand down the line winner in the second set's third game to move in front and closer to the finish line.

Rafa held at 15 in the next one and wasted more chances on the return that could have pushed him 4-1 up. Still going strong, Nadal closed the sixth game with a service winner and fired another from his backhand to grab a break a few minutes later for 5-2.

Serving for the victory in game eight, Rafa blasted four winners to wrap up an impressive performance and march into the last four.

Rafael Nadal