Miami: Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in the semi-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open after the old rivals advanced to the last four in contrasting fashions on Thursday.
Federer was gifted his spot after Gilles Simon retired with a stiff neck six minutes into their match, while world number one Nadal battled to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych in a two hour, 17 minutes match under the lights on a balmy night in South Florida.
Berdych was overpowered by Nadal`s fierce serve in the first set, but regrouped and broke in the second game of the second set. The Czech, making good use of his own powerful serve, secured his first set against the Spaniard since October 2006 but then was hanging in for most of the third.
Luck was not on Berdych`s side as two net cords fell badly for him, Nadal breaking to go 5-3 up in the third and to the delight of a packed stadium court, held serve to set up a mouthwatering semi-final with the world number three.
Federer barely broke sweat in his match as Simon, having being broken twice and losing the opening three games, asked for a medical break. The Frenchman shook hands with his opponent and the official before walking off court.
A disappointed crowd booed Simon as he headed to the locker room, leaving fans with only a doubles game to watch for the rest of the afternoon session.
Simon said he had suffered a recurrence of a niggling back injury during the warm up.
"I tried to relax after the warmup. I tried everything. I mean, anti-inflammatories, hot cream, just trying to feel better," Simon told reporters. "Just after the second forehand, I tried to hit it very hard; I felt it very hard also. I knew I had no chance to play today."
Federer said he sympathised with the Simon, who had beaten him twice in the three previous meetings.
"It`s not a whole lot fun honestly because you see the guy being booed off the court, which he clearly doesn`t deserve," said Federer.
"I understand the frustration from the people paying a lot of money to come see us play for multiple hours potentially, and then it`s over within 10 minutes. It`s not great."