Nadal and Murray cruise into Rome tennis semis
Rome: Rafael Nadal showed no signs of the fever that has been afflicting him this week as he strolled into the Rome Masters semi-finals here with a 6-1, 6-3 demolition of Marin Cilic.
Earlier Andy Murray became the first British man to reach the Rome semis in the Open era after a bizarre 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory against Florian Mayer.
Having been totally off colour on Wednesday in a tortured three-set victory over Italian qualifier Paolo Lorenzi, Nadal proved he was back to his best against Cilic.
"I improved today more than a little bit, I played better. First of all, to win a tournament you have to play well every day," said Nadal.
"I'm in the semis now. I've played three finals in a row on clay, I won two and lost one and now I'm in the semis again and that's very positive for me.
"Tomorrow will be a difficult match, I will have to play well another time, a little better than today."
The big serving Croat hit twice the number of unforced errors as Nadal in the first set with the world number one clinically taking his only two break point opportunities and securing the set with a powerful, deep forehand that Cilic couldn't return.
The second set started off going with serve until Nadal broke to love in the seventh game, Cilic's wildly long forehand on the final point indicative of the loose game he played.
And in his next service game the world number 23 plonked a forehand into net to give up match point and then hit another wide to hand Nadal the match.
Murray became the first British man since George Hughes in 1932 to get this far in Rome.
"It is important, it's nice to do well in tournaments abroad and this tournament has been around a long, long time," said Murray.
"There's a lot of history, it's always had great fields. Every year I've been here when you walk to the practice courts there's a list of winners down a wall that has a lot of great players."
The world number four was completely out of sorts in the first set but then went on to win 11 of the last 12 games as Mayer crumbled alarmingly.
Murray had never even reached the quarters here until this year but after a poor start riddled with unforced errors, he found his form on his least favourite surface, finishing with twice as many winners as his opponent.
The first two sets were a poor advert for serving as eight of the 14 games ended in a break.
Murray was the principal culprit in the first set as he put up feeble resistance, going down 6-1 and holding serve only once in his first five service games.
But as erratic as the Scot was in the first set, the German was just as bad in the second, in which he failed to hold serve at all.
Mayer had completely lost his way on serve and after Murray held at the start of the decider, the German was broken for the fifth game in a row as he netted a backhand volley on the stretch.
Having found the corners at will in the first set, Mayer was now struggling to find his range.
The world number 28 held his next service game but it was a brief reprieve as at 4-1 he was broken to love after netting a forehand and Murray served out the match.
In the women's event, world number one Caroline Wozniacki reached the semis after a three-set thriller that lasted almost two and a half hours.
The Dane survived a mid-match collapse to edge past twice former winner here Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.
Li Na of China was the first person into the semi-finals after completing a quick 6-3, 6-1 victory over Hungarian Greta Arn.
The fourth seed has made startlingly easy progress here, losing only 13 games in three matches, and she is yet to drop a set.