Monte Carlo (Principality of Monaco) (AFP) – Andy Murray will face the toughest clay test imaginable at the Monte Carlo Masters with a semi-final against Rafael Nadal, after crushing an under-done Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 on Friday.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brought the injury-comeback week for Roger Federer to a screeching halt as the eighth seed rallied past the Swiss 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Federer, out for more than two months after a knee operation, did not help his cause with a run of careless errors to end the two-hour battle, after easing through his first two matches of the week.
Tsonga will play a semi-final against the winner from 13th seed Gael Monfils and Spain’s Marcel Granollers.
Rafael Nadal, winner of eight straight titles here from 2005-2012, holds the edge over the second-seeded Murray, defeating him in 2009 and 2011 semi-finals in the principality.
The Spanish fifth seed, who has struggled for form in the last 18 months, looked back to his best as he beat French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4 in their quarter-final.
“Every day is a different story,” Nadal said. “The last three games of the first set was the only moment Stan didn’t play well. Obviously he played with too many mistakes.
“But the beginning of the match and the second set was a good match. Both of us played good points. He had more mistakes than me.
“I think I played well, I defended well, I moved well. When I had the opportunity, I was trying to have the control of the point with my forehand and with my backhand, too. I’m very happy the way that I played.”
Nadal raced to victory in 77 minutes against the tepid Swiss, the 2014 winner.
The disappointed fourth seed ended with 29 unforced errors while dropping serve four times.
“It was not a good day, I rushed at the beginning and I wasn’t able to put my game into place,” Wawrinka said. “I really need to work on two or three things that I want to improve.
“I have two weeks, or a bit more, before I go to Madrid. I will try to prepare well during that period.”
– Murray in command –
The match with Murray will be a re-run of the Madrid final from last May, when the Scotsman shocked the 14-time major champion.
“Andy played a great match today, I need to be ready to play the way I am playing the last two matches. If I am able to do it, I hope to have my chances,” Nadal said.
“I lost a lot of matches before the final last year. Was not a low point. Was a good tournament for me last year in Madrid. I was able to play at a very good level for some matches.
“I didn’t play my best match, but something like that can happen. Tomorrow is another tough match. But it’s an opportunity for me to play against the second best player of the world.
“I’m going to try to my best to play the right level.”
Murray was always in command against Raonic, who has been suffering with the return of a right leg injury which troubled him at the Australian Open two months ago.
Raonic, playing a third sonsecutive Monte Carlo quarter-final, was never in the match, failing to find a single ace in his 66-minute defeat.
Murray said that while his win might not have been pretty, it still gave him confidence after struggling through his first two contests this week.
“I’ve played a lot of tennis, though it has all not been of the highest quality,” said the 28-year-old.
“I’ve been able to learn from my previous matches. Today I served one of my best matches.
“Milos was not at his best, he can certainly serve better than today. I’m looking forward to the semi-finals.”
Murray’s win improved his head-to-head record against Raonic to 5-3 as he backed up a semi-final win over the Canadian in Melbourne.